Something new under the sun

Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh received a B.A. from Skidmore College and was ordained as a Rabbi from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She is fortunate to be involved in so many facets of the community including serving as the chaplain for JF&CS and an instructor for CAJE. This will be her fifth year serving as the visiting Rabbi in Decatur, Ill. She has also served congregations in both Sydney and Perth, Australia. When not writing her weekly BLOGS, she can be found running marathons.

By Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh

I was on a mission to leave West County and drive a half-hour north to take one of the residents I see monthly outside. Mr. S loves sitting in the sun. In this unbearable heat, I try and arrive before it gets too hot. Last month I found him sitting in front of a door in the dining hall waiting for an aide to take him out. He said, “They promised me.”

Mr. S cannot remain outside alone. And so it has become my habit to wheel him into the courtyard where we appreciate the warmth for a given time. Sometimes he talks and often he takes a brief nap. He misses his late wife and speaks about her with such love and respect I don’t mind hearing his stories several times a visit.

I was delighted that I missed the highway traffic and had arrived to find Mr. S awake watching television with the other gentlemen. He knew where we were going. I settled us outside mostly in the shade. Less than 15 minutes into our schmoozing Mr. S said, “I want to go inside now.”

“Excuse me?” I asked not thinking I heard correctly. “I am ready to go in. I have had enough,” said my friend.

Obliging his wishes, albeit with internal reluctance; I gently wheeled him back to his previous position. I was shocked. Given a choice, he normally would remain outdoors all day in any temperature. What was this about? I had left earlier than usual to perform this mitzvah. I was feeling good and now, Mr. S. was interfering with my mitzvah!

And then I stopped the ramblings in my mind. This was not about me or my desire to do something nice. This was about Mr. S’s needs and what he wanted. He did what he wished and was finished. What a great lesson. When parenting I often have to stop and ask myself is this about my needs or the needs of my child? When assisting others or actively performing mitzvot, we must ask ourselves, “For whom are we doing this? Are we meeting our own needs or addressing the concerns of another?”

I am looking forward to enjoying the warmth of the sun next month with Mr. S. Whether we stay for five minutes or longer, I understand the true meaning of this mitzvah.