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Beit Midrash Jewish Laws and Thoughts The Coronavirus Pandemic

At the Shabbat Table

Chapter 23

Lifted Spirits

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Yaakov slowly counted the green stripes on the curtain hanging in front of him. Then he counted the gray stripes. Not that anything changed when he counted them. Nothing changed around him. Not the curtain, not the lights on the ceiling, not the schedule of the nurses who came in to check his vital signs.
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Oh, how Yaakov wished that he could see someone from outside of the hospital. His beloved sons would have jumped at the chance to visit him. If only they could. If not for this horrible virus, which left him alone and hopeless in his hospital bed.
Despite the fact that Yaakov’s sons could only communicate with him by phone, Yaakov’s mood didn’t escape them. Tanchum, the oldest son, was terribly pained over his father’s condition. It was bad enough that his father had to suffer from coronavirus. It made it so much worse that he couldn’t even see his own family.
Tanchum was convinced that he had to do something. He thought of and discarded multiple options. And then it came to him!
Bright and early, Tuesday morning, a nurse walked into Yaakov’s room. "They took my blood pressure already," Yaakov protested.
The nurse just smiled in reply, and pointed in the direction of the window. Yaakov couldn’t believe it. There were his sons, standing there waving to him! How did they get to be outside his seventh floor window?!
Filled with sudden energy, Yaakov got out of his bed, and dragged his IV pole over to the window. He wasn’t imagining it. His sons were really there. Held up by… a crane!
Yaakov began laughing. His sons had come to visit him! He waved excitedly to them, as tears began coursing down his cheeks. He suddenly felt more alive than he had since he had been admitted to the hospital. What special children he had, who went to such effort to visit him!
Was Tanchum obligated to rent a crane, in order to perform the mitzva of kibud av v’eim (honoring one’s father and mother)?
Answer of Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, shlita:
If doing so will make Yaakov happy, and the son has the financial means, the son is obligated to rent a crane to visit his father in the hospital. It is true that, according to the laws of kibud av v’eim, a child is not obligated to spend his own money to fulfill his parents’ needs. However, if the parent does not have money, and the child does, the child is obligated to spend his own money. (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah, 240, 5)
A story is told about Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik of Brisk. He was told that a member of his community was not fulfilling his obligations of kibud av v’eim. The father of this person was hospitalized, in a hospital that was a considerable distance from Brisk, and the son refused to visit his father. Rabbi Chaim asked the man why he hadn’t visited his father. The man replied that, in order to travel to his father, he would have to take a train. The train fare was a substantial amount of money, and the son was unable to procure that amount. If the father were to provide the money, the son would be willing to visit his father. As long as his father didn’t provide the money, the son maintained, he was absolved from his obligation of kibud av v’eim.
Rabbi Chaim replied "it’s true that you’re absolved from paying for the train ride, but you are still obligated to visit your father. If you can’t take the train, then walk. Even if you don’t have to spend money on kibud av v’eim, you are still obligated to fulfill the mitzva with your body!"
(From the book L’or HaHalacha)
In summary: If it will make his father happy, and the son is financially capable of doing so, the son must rent a crane for the purpose of visiting his father.



Rabbi Daniel Kirsch
Rabbi Daniel Kirsch studied for many years at the famed Mercaz HaRav yeshiva in Jerusalem. He currently lives in Kedumim in the Shomron, where he studies at the yeshiva and teaches classes for adults. In addition, he teaches at an elementary school.
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