When It’s Our Turn to Take Care of Them The unique challenges of caring for our community’s seniors

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It is told that a small group of men were once with the great sage Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz (1878-1953), who was more commonly known as the Hazon Ish, and wanted to recite the Minhah prayer. They had exactly ten men with whom to form a minyan, but one of the men said that if he stayed to pray then, he would be late for an appointment that he scheduled. They turned to the Hazon Ish and posed the question: should the man remain to complete the minyan and arrive late to his meeting, or should he go on time to his appointment, and leave behind nine men without a minyan?

The sage’s answer was unequivocal: the man must go to his meeting. If he made a commitment to meet somebody at a certain time, then he has a responsibility to be there at the stipulated time. The minyan does not matter.

Another story is told of a different
20th-centry luminary – Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky (1891-1986), who was approached by a man who wanted to call in sick on Purim so he could properly celebrate with his family. This employee had sick days that he was not using, and so he wanted to use one of them for Purim.

“But you’re not sick,” the rabbi said.

“Yes, but I’m entitled to a certain number of sick days,” the
man replied.

The rabbi did not accept the argument. “You are entitled to a certain number of days off for illness. You cannot call in sick if you’re not sick.”

“But what about the Purim feast?” the man asked.

The rabbi told him to pack a turkey sandwich and a soda in his bag and bring it with him to work. He should eat it during his lunch break, and this would be his Purim feast. While ideally one should celebrate Purim by participating in a large, festive meal together with family and friends, a person has no right to lie in order to be able to celebrate at the ideal standard. It was clear to Rabbi Kamenetsky, without any shadow of a doubt, that one should tell the truth and eat a simple meal on Purim rather than lie to his employer and enjoy a lavish feast.

There is much to learn from these two stories, but we will focus here on one particular message that relates to the story of Matan Torah – our nation’s receiving the Torah at Sinai – which we read this month.