| Take 2 |

Faiga and Gittel

We need to stretch ourselves to do chesed. But chesed must remain pleasant for us


Faiga’s Take

Hi, I’m Faiga. I have a small issue I’d like to ask about.

Around two years ago, there was a person in my community who lost most of his money and was in a very rough situation. I’m not sure about the details, but one thing I do know is that my father tried very hard to help get the man get back on his feet and start over financially. I remember at the time being so impressed with my father that he stepped up like that when he wasn’t necessarily close to this person. He met with him every day for weeks on end, offered him a position in his own company, and slowly but surely, along with the assistance and generosity of many other community members, helped him recover from his financial losses so he could support his family again. Naturally, a very close relationship developed between them, and as a result, our families got to know each other. My mother became close to this man’s wife, and they started walking over on Shabbos a lot with their kids, most of them younger than me.

I’m proud to have a father who cares so deeply about another man’s problems and takes them personally upon himself. I also admire my mother’s way of befriending someone and making her feel comfortable in our home. These are qualities I aspire to have, and I say aspire because I’m definitely very far from my parents’ generosity, hospitality, and warmth. I’ll tell you why: Shabbosim were always nice and quiet in my house, just me surrounded by family. Lately, with this family coming over, they’re loud and full of extra desserts to serve to visitors I’m not always in the mood to entertain. I’m so happy my father was able to help this family, but I’m not comfortable with how often I must see or involve myself with them. The children are all younger than I am — 15 — and their oldest daughter Gittel is 12. When they come over, they stay for hours, and my mother always gives me a look when I try to leave the room and escape. She encourages me to take out games and sit and play with the kids in the living room. If they get antsy, she’ll suggest I push them outside on the swings or play hide and seek with them in the backyard. On top of that, Gittel follows me around everywhere and is a nonstop chatterbox.

The first few times, I was happy to do it. But now it’s becoming something I dread. I understand my parents developed a close relationship with this family, but when they bring the chesed home with them and it becomes the whole family’s responsibility, I feel that’s unfair. I don’t want to spend every Shabbos being a babysitter or an entertainer! And now, my mother just informed me that she invited them for the Pesach Sedorim this year, and I can only imagine what that’s going to be like for me.

I feel bad and guilty to feel this way, but like I said, I just don’t have the same endurance as my parents, who can smile and welcome people into the comfort of their own home with ease and grace. I’m honestly tired of it, and if I ever complain, I’m admonished for not having rachmanus on a family that needed to uproot their lives and suffer through a tremendous upheaval. This is helping them heal, my mother tells me.

I get all this. But I want to know if I’m awful for wanting a break. I feel guilty for not being more like my parents, but it’s harder for me than it is for them. How can I make this easier on myself?

Gittel’s Take

Hi, my name is Gittel. I’m almost 13 years old. I feel a lot older than thirteen, though, because of what my family and I have been through. A few years ago, my father had a really bad situation with his work and my parents seemed to be going crazy. Not all of it made sense to me but from what I could pick up, my father lost his job, most of the money he had in the bank, and we were going to lose our house. I don’t know why this happened, but I remember being really, really scared and confused when we moved out of our house and into Bubby’s house. I do love Bubby’s house, of course, but when I asked Tatty when we’d be going home and he told me we weren’t, not to our old house anyway, I really couldn’t believe it. How did this all happen so fast? Why couldn’t anyone explain to me what was happening in a way I could understand? All I knew was, Tatty was always stressed and talking with Mommy in private while I tried to keep my younger brothers and sisters under control. I’m the oldest, so Mommy really needed my help the most, and I did the best I could.

A few months ago, while I was sitting in Bubby’s kitchen having supper, I remember Tatty dancing into the house with tears in his eyes, saying Hashem had given him a yeshuah and things were slowly going to get back to normal. Mommy started crying too and before I knew what was happening, Tatty, Mommy, and Bubby were all hugging and cheering, and the little ones started cheering too, even though they had no idea what there was to be happy about. I didn’t either, but I sure can say that that was the happiest I’d seen Tatty and Mommy in a long, long time.

A few weeks later, they took us to the new house we’d be moving into so we could see it. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. Our old house had been much bigger and nicer looking. This one looked rundown and seemed much smaller. I wanted to say my opinion but seeing Tatty’s eyes lighting up with happiness stopped the words before I could say them. I smiled and told him it was great, this was amazing, and I was excited to be in our own home again.

We moved in pretty quickly after that and it took a long time to get used to the house, the neighborhood, and especially the long commute I now had to school every day. Traffic was much heavier in this part of town, so compared to our old house, I was 45 minutes away as opposed to ten or fifteen. But it was all worth it if Tatty was back to normal again — happy, going to work, and coming back to his own home with his family around him.

One thing that made my parents so happy was being closer to the Reismans. My parents are just crazy about those Reismans. They are a family that live a couple of blocks away from us, and now we see them all the time. They really are the nicest people and I love their daughter, Faiga. She’s older than me but she treats me like I’m the same age, and we have lots to talk about. They welcomed us to the neighborhood with open arms and made us feel much more comfortable than any other neighbors, that’s for sure. I’m grateful to them because of how happy they make my parents and how much care and attention they shower on me and my siblings. It’s so nice of them.

But I noticed lately that Faiga seems a little different when we’re at her house. She goes upstairs a lot and sometimes I go after her, but she seems to want to be alone. I hope I haven’t done anything to hurt her feelings. I’m almost sure I haven’t. Is she getting sick of us, of me? I’d hate to think the one ally I have in this new neighborhood is slowly turning her back on me. I wouldn’t have anyone else to talk to if Faiga and I stopped being close. Should I ask her about how she’s feeling?

Mindy’s Take

Dear Faiga,

I give you a brachah that you should always be on the giving end!

That being said, chesed does have to be “tiferes l’oseha,” which means pleasant for the one that is doing the kindness. It sounds like your parents are tremendous role models of chesed and tzedakah, and that they try to do it in its purest form, where the recipients are the most comfortable and don’t even feel that they are taking. I hear from your letter that you admire and are proud of your parents. I also hear your genuine anguish and frustration at being forced to overextend yourself in a chesed that wasn’t your choosing!

As an outside, objective person I want to first applaud your chesed. Yes, your pure chesed, where you’re constantly giving up Shabbos afternoons and going out of your way to befriend a younger girl. That’s an incredible and selfless act! Don’t compare yourself to your parents or to anyone else.

When Hashem gives us blessings, we have an obligation to use it to help other people! If we’re friendly, popular, and smart, we have a responsibility to befriend and study with other people.
We need to stretch ourselves to do chesed. But chesed must remain pleasant for us, and therefore we need to make sure that we aren’t overdoing it.

It’s okay to put boundaries in place. Respectful communication is the key to ensuring that there are no hurt feelings when those boundaries are there. Speak with your parents openly and honestly. Explain that you’re happy to entertain Gittel and help with the other kids some of the time, but not all of the time. Then, together, come up with a fair compromise for Pesach and Shabbosim. Be honest with Gittel as well and explain to her that as much as you enjoy hanging out with her, the second day of Pesach you are getting together with your classmates.

Dear Gittel,
Wow! You went through a super challenging time, and you managed to remain upbeat, positive, and empathetic. You should be truly proud of yourself.

When we go through personal challenges, it’s good to have support. If you can reach out to a teacher or speak with your mother about your thoughts and feelings, that would be very beneficial.
Faiga is a kind friend. However, she’s a new friend, and she’s older than you. It’s important to tread slowly with new friends, and especially with older friends. It’s good to give her space and make other friends as well. If you feel comfortable, have an open conversation with her about this. If not, you can always speak it over with your mother or teacher.

Wishing you both a Pesach of true freedom and simchah!



(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 907)

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