| Double Take |

Money Talks

“I’m the one in touch with our parents’ needs — and this is what they needed to enjoy Yom Tov”

Tzivia: Just because you can pay, why do you always get the final say?
Benny: I’m the one on the ground, and I see what you don’t from an ocean away.



“We’re doing a stopover, I’m dreading it,” said Malky, giving her two-year-old another push on the swing.

“Ugh, they’re the worst,” chimed in Dini. “I’d so rather do an overnight stop and put the kids to sleep in a hotel than hang out for a few hours in a random airport — they all go crazy with boredom, and then you need to get back on a plane and start the whole thing over again….”

“I know, it’s such a toss-up, the hassle of traveling versus making Yom Tov yourself,” agreed Malky.

“Are you kidding? I waaaay prefer to make Pesach than have the kids out of routine, jet-lagged, all that,” said Sara.

The post-Purim park bench conversations in our Israeli-but-chutznik neighborhood were always the same. I listened with half an ear as I distributed sandwiches to the kids and kept an eye on them as they ran around.

“Tzivia, what are you doing this year? You always make Pesach, no?” my friend Baila asked me.

“Actually, we’re flying back this year.”

“Oh, wow, good for you!”

I broke Simchi’s bread into small pieces and handed him the first two. He offered a gummy smile.

“Actually, I’m with Sara,” I said. “I find it easier to make Yom Tov than travel with the kids, but we haven’t seen my parents or in-laws in a while, and we’re overdue for a visit.”

“I’m gonna make some orders for you to bring back, ’kay?” Baila laughed. She’d be making Pesach for the first time, and she’d been lamenting the loss of her annual opportunity to go shopping “back home.”

“Sure,” I agreed easily. “If we have the space.”

Truth is, while I’d just announced that I thought it would be easier to stay home, I couldn’t deny I was pretty excited myself about the shopping. Okay, and about seeing the family, and having a change of scenery, and just being a guest, too, to be honest. We love living in Israel, but without much family around, I end up doing a lot of cooking. Shabbos, Yom Tov, day in and day out… going to our parents for Yom Tov would be a real treat. If I looked at it that way, the traveling was a small price to pay.

“Where are you staying, your parents?” Esther Raizy asked. She was a friend from way back, we went to school together, and she knew my family.

“Yeah. My in-laws don’t have much space, and they live close enough that we can walk back and forth for meals. It’s really helpful to have married someone local.”

“Tell me about it,” Tzippy sighed. “We’re always dividing the time and doing this long, long drive on Chol Hamoed.”

“Well, at least your in-laws and parents live in the same country,” Sara, whose husband is European, chimed in.

It was true; we were lucky. We rarely went back to America as a family anymore; we had six kids by now, and tickets were a fortune. I was grateful that we’d worked it out this year. We were using points to cover some of the cost, and my brother Benny — who owned a large, very successful business — was graciously contributing, too.

But like I said, I wasn’t looking forward to dealing with my kids’ crankiness, and I was so relieved that at least we’d get to see both sides of the family without having to move around or split the time. Both sets of parents were excited, and my unmarried siblings were looking forward to it, too.

“I’m so happy you’re coming and Ma decided to make Yom Tov,” my sister Blumie had told me when we’d chatted on the phone the other day. “The last couple years, we all ended up going to these programs with Benny. So not the type.”

I knew all about it. Blumie and Sheva, my single sisters, had both complained to me about how much they disliked attending these fancy programs as tagalongs with Benny’s family. He enjoyed these things, and he was a good son, always inviting my parents to go along with him — but it meant my sisters were inevitably tagging along, too. And at 23 and 21 years old, they were old for that.

“All those women in their glamorous wigs and a new outfit for every meal of every day of Yom Tov….” Blumie sighed. “I mean, I’m happy for them and all that, but they’re not exactly my type. And we need to look perfect allll the time because who knows who might have a son or a brother or a—”

“Nephew or cousin or friend’s son’s cook’s grandson,” I finished for her.

“Ex-actly!” Blumie trilled, and we both laughed.


was so — unexpected, really.

We weren’t a wealthy family, not by any stretch of the imagination. My parents were in chinuch until their retirement, we were here in Israel on a shoestring budget, my sister Yaeli and her husband were doing kiruv somewhere on the West Coast in a small kollel community… you get the idea.

Benny, somehow, was different. He’d always been business minded, dabbling in Amazon selling even while he was still learning. But when he left kollel and started his real estate business, things really took off.

He didn’t flaunt his money, but it was obvious that he was doing well. He and Nava bought a huge, gorgeous house in an affluent community, and they lived the good life — though I have to admit they were happy to bring the family along for the ride.

It couldn’t be easy to be the “rich sibling,” but Benny was gracious about it. He helped our parents out a lot, quietly paying their bills and various other expenses. He bought my mother gifts “just because” and made sure my father could enjoy his retirement worry-free. He took them away for Pesach for the last couple of years, and for Succos he invited the whole family to join him in his mansion.

My parents were so grateful to Benny, and all of us siblings were appreciative that they were so well taken care of.

But sometimes things got sticky — like now. Blumie and Sheva weren’t married, and they wanted to be home for Yom Tov. But Benny didn’t exactly run his plans by them — to him they were just his baby sisters.

But they weren’t baby sisters anymore — they were mature, independent adults who didn’t appreciate having their Yom Tov plans depend on where Benny and his rich chevreh decided to go for Yom Tov. They didn’t appreciate the stares and the questions and all the unsolicited shidduch advice.

“I just want to put my greasy third-day-Yom-Tov hair in a ponytail and shlump around, and I can’t do that at these fancy programs,” Sheva had complained to me last year.

Well, this time, she would be able to do that. I was happy Ma had decided to make Yom Tov this year.

“It’s been so long, and if you’re coming, we’ll have a lovely family Yom Tov here at home,” she’d told me.


few days before our flight, I started packing. I hadn’t done this in years, and I’d forgotten just how intimidating the job could be. Packing for a family of eight when four children are running around squealing and rummaging through the half-packed suitcases is close to impossible. And that was before I realized that Efraim was missing a Shabbos shoe and the girls’ robes hadn’t been hemmed.

I sat on the floor next to three open suitcases, consulting my list and calling to the kids to bring me various items of clothing, shoes, and accessories.

“Yom Tov outfits, weekday outfits, tights for the girls, socks for the boys — Efraim, did you bring me your socks yet?”

The phone rang in the other room, and Shoshi picked it up. “Hello? Oh, hi, Bubby! Sure, I’ll give her the phone.”

It was my mother. “Hi, Ma. We’re just in the throes of packing. What’s the weather like in Lakewood these days? Here, it’s already warmed up, but I don’t know what things are like by you, especially at nights….”

“You should probably bring some warmer things, for sure for the evenings. They get cold.” Then Ma cleared her throat. “Actually, Tzivia, I wanted to speak to you about something. A… change of plans.”

Change of plans?

Our flight was scheduled to leave in less than 24 hours. My blood ran cold.

“What’s going on? Is everyone okay?”

“Yes, yes, everything’s fine,” Ma said, hurriedly. “Tatty’s okay, we’re all good. It’s just that… it’s been a little much for me, all the preparing and everything, and you know Benny sent over cleaning help and stuff, but still. In the end, he offered to host us all for Yom Tov — isn’t that nice? And of course, he invited all of you to come along. He has plenty of room, so that shouldn’t be an issue.”

My mouth dropped open. “You’re going to Benny? But he lives — you mean you’ll be spending the whole Yom Tov there?”

“Yes… I know, we thought we’d stay at home this year,” Ma said, a little regretfully. “I just… I realized it’s a bit too much. The hosting and everything…. And Benny has more space, and live-in help. And this way, we can all be together! We’d have you, and Benny’s family, and Blumie and Sheva, obviously. It would be nice for your kids, too, they’d have cousins around….”



There were words exploding in my brain, too fast for me to compute. And not things I wanted to say out loud.

“Mommy! I don’t have any socks! Chaim takes mine and I don’t have any left!” wailed Efraim, waving a lone sock at me and looking accusingly at his younger brother, who ran behind the couch to take refuge.

“Ma, I have to go. I’ll talk to you later.” I choked the words out and ended the call.


didn’t know what to say. This was just… so unfair, so upsetting, on every level.

As soon as Shua came home, I retreated to the mirpeset with him, the only way to keep the kids from overhearing.

“My mother called,” I said, and I filled him in on the latest development.

“They’re going to Benny’s?” Shua’s eyes widened. “Well, I guess he has the space to host everyone.” He smiled mirthlessly.

“The space isn’t the problem!” I said. “You know what the issues are! We’re not flying across the world to spend Pesach in my brother’s luxury mansion, far away from Lakewood and your family and our friends and acquaintances and the yeshivah and everything. It’s just — totally not right, how he’s using his money to buy everyone out again! And Ma — he’s got her wrapped around his little finger. ‘Come with me to this hotel, Ma! And that one! And hey! Cancel on Tzivia and her family and just hang out by us for Yom Tov!’ ”

Shua pressed his lips together. “He did invite us to come along. I guess he doesn’t realize we actually wanted to be at your parents’ house.”

Shua’s efforts to explain Benny’s behavior only stirred me up more. “If we wanted to spend Yom Tov with him, we would’ve said so at the beginning,” I said agitatedly. “And Ma was all excited about our kids getting to know their cousins — it’s gonna be a disaster. You know my brother, his chinuch ideas are totally not the same as ours. They have this huge screen in the kids’ playroom, their kids watch all these kiddie movies and who knows what. They have crazy hasagos and do all sorts of things that we wouldn’t want our kids to do. And now we’re stuck there for the whole Pesach because he’s convinced my parents to abandon their plans and go trailing after him again!”

Shua nodded slowly. He wasn’t going to go on a rant like me, but I could tell he was upset, too. He loved making his own Seder, centering it on the children and what they’d learned, encouraging them to ask questions, dramatizing the story for them. Still, going to our parents was also special. But sitting as a guest at Benny’s Seder? It just wasn’t what we’d intended. At all.

Personally, what I was finding even more frustrating than the details was the feeling that my brother thought he could control what everyone else in the family did — just because he was blessed with an abundance of money. He wasn’t giving any thought to us and our preferences, no thought to our younger sisters, who happened to be adults with feelings and opinions, even if they weren’t married. He just threw money at my parents and expected everyone to follow along.


course, it’s hard to stay angry at the guy who sends his private chauffeur to meet you at the airport.

“Oh, wow, Benny, that’s really nice of you,” I said, when he called us just before our flight took off to let us know he’d arranged our transportation. “You totally don’t have to do that….”

“I want to,” he said. “I know Tatty and Blumie were going to both drive out to pick you guys up, but it’s a schlep for Tatty. I didn’t want him to have to do that. And it’s no big deal to send Sean out for you.”

No big deal to spare a driver for several hours. I guess when you have limitless money, that works.

Thanks to Sean, we got to my parents’ house in relative comfort, which was nice after a 12-hour flight with six kids in various stages of a meltdown.

My parents were all smiles, excited to see the children after so long. “It’s such a treat to see you all! Wow, look how big the kids are! Come inside, come inside….”

For a moment, I forgot that we were just here temporarily; that pretty soon we’d be moving over to Benny’s mansion, a good few hours away. It was so good to be back at my parents’ house, settling the kids into the familiar bedrooms upstairs, exchanging hugs with my sisters, sitting down in the kitchen to a hot drink — finally! — and slices of Ma’s cinnamon crumb cake.

“Isn’t it amazing, fresh chometz cake so soon before Pesach?” Ma laughed. “And it’s all thanks to Benny. Because we’re going away for Pesach, we can just lock up the kitchen and sell it, no big deal. It worked out nicely, in the end.”

Crumbs stuck in my throat. “Um, Ma? I was just wondering… we really were excited to be here for Pesach. It’s not great for us to come along to Benny’s, we won’t get to see Shua’s family that much….”

I knew it was probably too late to change the plans, but I felt I had to speak up.

Ma put a hand on my shoulder. “Oh, Tzivia, I feel bad about that,” she said. “I know you probably would have enjoyed being home. But the truth is — it just got too much for me. I haven’t hosted Pesach in a few years, and I just realized it would be a lot. And with Tatty feeling the way he does, he really can’t do too much heavy work, so Benny was sending us in a lot of help… and in the end, it just made more sense to switch things around and just go to him. This way, I can actually enjoy your company instead of being a total shmatteh Seder night, you know?”

I nodded. I couldn’t deny it made sense. But understanding didn’t take away my feeling of tremendous disappointment, and the stress of what we would do now.

I tried venting on the phone to my married sister Yaeli, who’d be staying home and hosting a communal Seder, but she didn’t get it. She kept saying what a nice Yom Tov we were going to have all together and how amazing that Benny could host us all.

“It just wouldn’t have worked for Ma, I think she could see that,” Yaeli said, and I bristled.

“What wouldn’t have worked? We planned this months ago!” I said.

“Yeah, but when it came to it….” Yaeli gave the verbal equivalent of a shrug.

When it came to it, whatever our rich brother decided was what went. And it was very nice that Yaeli thought it would be fun; she wasn’t the one whose plans were being upended at the last minute.

When I told her that, her reply was uncharacteristically sharp. “Tzivia, what’s with you? So you’re going to be by Benny instead of Ma’s. You’re still with family. You’re still getting a catered Yom Tov. It’s probably going to be beautiful. So what if Benny will be hosting instead of Tatty? This is just the way it worked out best.”

“Best for who, exactly?” I asked, but Yaeli cut in, something about onions burning and a kid crying and some students at the door, and that was the end of our very unsatisfying conversation.

Really, it was easy for her to say it was no big deal. It was a very big deal for me and for our younger sisters.

We’d decided to come back to Lakewood on Chol Hamoed so we could spend the second days with Shua’s family. But my in-laws didn’t have space for us to move in, so we’d have to spend half of Yom Tov in my parents’ empty house without any Pesachdig kitchen facilities.

It was so not ideal, so not what we’d dreamed of when we’d finally, finally made plans to bring our family over for Yom Tov.

My sisters were miserable, too. Sheva, in particular, looked really down. I didn’t get to speak to her much when we first came, we were too jet-lagged and exhausted for me to grab a moment to speak to her, but the next evening, I cautiously asked her if everything was okay.

“Yes. No. Whatever,” she said, tearing up and grabbing a tissue. “Sorry. I had a horrible week, and you landed like just a day after everything fall apart—” I listened emphatically, though I wasn’t totally sure what she was talking about — had she been going out with someone? — then snapped back to attention as she continued. “—And now with that whole change of plans for Yom Tov—” She broke off abruptly.

“I know. I wish we could just make Yom Tov here for you guys, but Tatty and Ma would be so hurt. Besides, it’s just not practical.”

Sheva made a face. “It’s just so — ugh, you know? Having to sit like a nebach at Benny’s Seder, in his shul, be a guest there the whole Yom Tov instead of feeling at home. And right now, I’m just — not in the mood, you know?”

“Right,” I said carefully, even though I still wasn’t exactly sure what she was talking about.

“We went out, like, four times,” she blurted out finally. “I know, I know, it’s nowhere near enough to get excited about, but you know what? He was such a great guy. I really, really thought this was it. And you know how it goes, starting to dream about this whole parshah being over, and the engagement, and maybe I could be engaged before Yom Tov, and then bam, he said no, all over. Back to the beginning, do not pass go, do not collect $200.”

Ouch. I felt so bad for Sheva. A failed shidduch, right now of all times. All those dashed hopes and lost dreams and heartache. Just about the last thing my sister needed right before Yom Tov — always a sensitive time.

“I’m so sorry, Shevs. That’s horrible.”

“Yeah, pretty much.” She gave a watery smile. “Now you know why I’m out of sorts. Sorry. Would’ve loved to be better company now that you’re finally here.”

“Sheva! Stop it. You’re the best company. We love you. And at least we can keep each other company over first days. We don’t have much to do in Benny’s area either.”


ot having much to do was an understatement. We arrived on Erev Yom Tov to a gilded cage. Oh, it was perfect in every way, from the gorgeous hostess baskets to the fluffy towels and en suite bathrooms off each of the guest rooms, but one small was thing missing: the Yom Tov we’d been dreaming of.

My kids hung back a little as we introduced them to their cousins, shy of these very confident, oh-so-American relatives. Benny’s girls, Abby and Rikki, were dressed in adorable matching denim dresses, with the boys in coordinated T-shirts, and I suddenly felt so self-conscious of my own kids’ wardrobe; never mind that I’d carefully selected their nicest weekday outfits for the occasion.

“Wanna come down to our playroom?” Abby invited my girls.

They looked up at me for approval.

“Go ahead! I’m sure there are lots of fun toys down there,” I said.

Rikki giggled, and I wondered why.

But then the kids meandered off together and my sister-in-law Nava wanted to show everyone to their rooms, and apparently there was brunch waiting for everyone, and I let myself relax a little.

Shua’s eyebrows jumped when he saw the room we’d be sleeping in. It was at least double the size of our master bedroom back in Israel, which wasn’t saying much, but still. And the kids’ rooms were equally luxurious.

“It’s… really nice. Wow.”

I nodded. This was hotel-level luxury, for sure, but at what cost?

I peeked in at the brunch spread before going to check on the kids — a buffet of eggs, salads, fruit, and drinks. On Erev Pesach morning, no less. Whoa.

Heading to the basement, I could hear music playing, but not much else. Funny, I mused, there were so many kids running around there.

Well, I figured things out soon enough. They weren’t running around. They were sitting on chairs in what looked like a mini-cinema setup, watching some cartoon characters dance around on a huge screen.

“Mommy!” my kids said, as I entered.

The older ones blushed. They knew we didn’t do these things.

I forced a smile. “Hi, kids, you having a good time?”

What was I supposed to say? Forbid them from watching with their cousins? Tell my brother to switch his kids’ screen off?

Abby, Benny’s oldest, was holding the remote. “We’re watching this for 15 more minutes, then we’re going for a snack, then we’ll see,” she said authoritatively. To me, she added, “My mother lets us watch for as long as we want on a Friday or Erev Yom Tov. She says it’s a help for her that we’re busy and don’t make a mess.”

Well, I thought snarkily. If that was the priority, then sure, go for it.

And we could swallow it for one afternoon. Right?

I headed upstairs and met my sisters nibbling on plates of salad and talking in low voices. They looked up when I came in, startled, and then relaxed.

“Oh, it’s you,” Blumie said.

“What a welcome.” I laughed.

“No, it’s fine, just thought it was… someone else. Whatever.” Blumie scowled.

I helped myself to a plate of eggs and a cup of iced coffee. “What’s going on?”

“What do you mean, what’s going on? This. All of this.” Blumie waved a hand.


“Ha, ha. You know what we mean. It’s nice to be wined and dined and all that, but can we please not forget that we didn’t ask to be guests here for Yom Tov? That we didn’t want to be placed in a huge gorgeous guest room and have tons of catered food thrown at us so we keep quiet and smile along when our brother takes over our lives and dictates where we go and what we do every Yom Tov?”

I looked at my sisters. They were angry, and frankly, I understood them. They weren’t kids; they were in their twenties. They didn’t deserve to be treated like tagalongs and just informed of their Yom Tov plans at the last minute.

Nava came in just then, and we abruptly ended the conversation. Benny’s behavior wasn’t her fault, and she was doing her best to be gracious and welcoming.

“Everything okay?” she asked. “Camila’s going to bring some cakes and cookies soon. Shehakol, obviously, but you wouldn’t believe they’re not chometz.”

“Thanks so much, Nava, everything’s delicious,” I said. My sisters chorused their thanks along with me.

I can’t deny that part of me felt like I was in some sort of wonderland, being catered to like a princess on Erev Pesach. On the other hand, Shua was hanging around upstairs like a fish out of water. I knew he wasn’t looking forward to Benny’s Seder — “We don’t schlep things, everyone’s far too hungry and tired” — and to have come all the way from Israel for a once-in-a-decade kind of trip, only to be told we’re going to an unfamiliar neighborhood for Yom Tov… just didn’t feel great.

Yes, we were in the lap of luxury. But we’d never asked for this kind of Yom Tov in the first place.

If I could tell Benny one thing, it would be: It’s very nice to say “I’ll pay,” but what about all those of us who don’t want to spend Yom Tov this way?




“Benny! What a treat!”

Ma bustled around making tea and cutting slices of her signature crumb cake. I tell you, I’ve tried food from some of the best bakeries in the country, but there’s nothing like Ma’s good ol’ homemade cinnamon cake.

“For this cake? I’d come any day of the week,” I joked.

Ma smiled and sat down across from me. She looked worn out; I knew Tatty hadn’t been feeling well lately and she’d been running around taking him to doctors. Recently, my father had been… aging. There was no other word for it. And the brunt of it fell on Ma.

“What can I do to help you? Would you and Tatty want to come for Shabbos? With the girls, obviously.” My two youngest sisters, Sheva and Blumie, were still unmarried. It was a given that whenever I invited my parents, they’d come along.

“That’s so nice of you, Benny, but honestly, it’s been such a long week that I just want to stay home,” Ma said. Then she sighed. “Shabbos at home is the best, but it’s also so much work.”

“The food’s on me,” I said immediately. “I’ll order in Shabbos for the four of you. No problem. It’s the least I can do.”

Ma shook her head. “Benny, you’re an angel. I’m not even going to say no.”

I was alarmed. My mother’s easy capitulation was an obvious sign of just how exhausted she was. I usually had to work harder to get her to agree to take things from me, usually by convincing her she was doing me the favor.

And I meant it; she was — I genuinely wanted to give to my parents. They’d done so much for me, all those years; now that baruch Hashem things were going well for us… of course I wanted to give back.

I went into the living room to say hello to Tatty before I left. He was dozing on the recliner holding a Chumash, but he opened his eyes when I walked in.

“Ahh, Benny, good to see you.”

I noticed a stack of envelopes piled on the side table. Bills. I slipped them into my jacket pocket.

“Tatty, let me take care of these for you, okay?” My parents didn’t have anything extra. I knew they could use any help I could give them.

“Hey, Benny, hi.” My sister Sheva sailed past me with a wave.

“Hi, Shevs, how’s it going?”

“Good, good, regards to Nava and the kids.” She disappeared into the kitchen.

I don’t know how to put it exactly, but there’s something… some sort of divide between us, my siblings and I. And it’s pretty obvious that it’s something to do with money.

My parents were always in chinuch; my sister Tzivia lives in Israel and her husband’s in kollel, there’s certainly no money there. Yaeli’s in some out-of-the way kiruv community; they manage, but just. And then there are my younger sisters, still living at home. They have good jobs, but it’s not like anyone’s struck it rich.

And there’s me; I’ve done well in business, and while I’m no billionaire, baruch Hashem, I’m very comfortable. And over the years, this dynamic has kind of set me apart from the others, made my siblings all one type and me into the “other.”

I tried not to let it bother me. We host my parents and younger sisters all the time, Shabbos, Yom Tov getaways, midwinter trips to Florida — all expenses paid, of course.

For the past couple of years, I took my family to hotels for Pesach — and invited my parents and unmarried siblings to come along, too.

It’s so good to be able to give like this. It’s just a shame to feel like I’m living on a different planet from my siblings, no matter how hard I try to show them that we’re still family even if I’ve been blessed with wealth.


ava was drawing up some sort of schedule on her tablet when I came home.

“You working?” I asked.

Nava works part-time as an interior designer; it’s for fun, she doesn’t need to work, but the truth is, she’s great at it and she’s paid well, too.

“No, not working, I had a day off. I’m Pesach planning.”

She showed me her screen. She’d written up a detailed schedule for the housekeeper, when and how to Pesach-clean each room of the house, and another schedule for shopping, grocery orders, and cooking. We have plenty of household help — Nava doesn’t have to do the cooking at all, but she enjoys it.

“And I figured we’ll order in some of the food ready-made — I want to keep things calm and organized around here,” Nava said. “It’ll be nice to make Yom Tov this year, no? I’m happy we decided to skip the hotel for a change.”

I thought back to my childhood memories of making Pesach. There was a lot of music and potato chips, and a lot of elbow grease, too. Scrubbing cabinets and spreading foil, watching Tatty blowtorch the stove and peeling a million pounds of potatoes with my sisters….

There was something special about that, sure, but there was also something pretty cool about making Yom Tov sitting at the table with a tablet and a couple spreadsheets. You had to admit that it was easier to feel the royalty thing that way.

“You sure your parents don’t want to come?” Nava asked. “We really need to host some guests over Yom Tov. I’ll invite friends for the meals, but it would be nice to have someone move in.”

“My parents decided ages ago that they’re staying home this year,” I said. “I told you, my sister Tzivia’s coming. I literally don’t remember the last time she flew in.”

“Right, you told me. Wow, that’s a big deal for them. I mean, we saw them when we were in Israel last summer, but your parents….”

“Yeah, it’s been a while.”

“Maybe we should drive over on Chol Hamoed and see them?” Nava suggested.

I shrugged, unsure. I was off from work so infrequently, and I’d wanted to take my kids on some mega trip on Chol Hamoed. On the other hand… family was family.

“Maybe we should meet up with them on Isru Chag? Or invite everyone for Shabbos Chol Hamoed…” I countered.

Nava perked up. “Ooh, that could be fun.” Her fingers strayed to her tablet. Then she looked up again. “Your parents are making Yom Tov, you said? And hosting… and Tzivia’s family is big. Maybe we should send them something extra, to help out.”

I loved that my wife was so willing and forthcoming about sending money to my family. Her own parents were well-off, and she had one brother who was managing a bunch of nursing homes. She didn’t grow up like I did, but she was so sensitive to my family and their needs.

“Good idea,” I said, and logged into my banking app.

A few moments later, I’d sent a nice amount over to my parents’ account, and texted Tatty.

Just sent something toward simchas Yom Tov for the family. Enjoy!


omehow, the closer we get to Pesach, the busier it gets at work. I left the office after 9 p.m. one Thursday evening, grateful it was almost Shabbos. The rest of the week hadn’t been much better.

While driving home, I dialed my mother. I usually tried to visit once a week, but this week hadn’t worked out. I could call, though.

“Hi, Benny,” Ma said. She sounded… tired. Not like herself.

“Hi, Ma, what’s up, how’s everything, how’s Tatty?”

“Baruch Hashem.” She was quiet.

“Is everything okay? You sound tired.”

Ma sighed. “It’s a lot of work, making Pesach. And there are a lot of guests coming. I haven’t done this in a while. It’s fine, just — I forgot how much koach it takes.”

I grimaced a little. This didn’t sound like Ma. My mother was always so energetic, full of positivity, busy with this and that and running around doing chesed, too.

She wasn’t young anymore.

“I’ll be fine, I just need to get through the cleaning stage, the cooking will be easier,” she said, sounding like she was trying to convince herself.

Would it be easier, really? I thought about those mounds of potatoes we’d peeled as kids — she didn’t have much help at home these days. My sisters pitched in, but they were busy with jobs and social lives and dating and whatever. She’d be catering Yom Tov for six adults and six children, plus hosting all at the same time. It was a lot.

“How’s the cleaning going? Do you have any help?” I meant hired help, but Ma didn’t understand it that way.

“Ah, you know how it goes. Sheva’s dating someone, a really wonderful boy actually, I hope it works out for her. But she’s out every other evening. And Blumie’s working till close to midnight, her office is a madhouse, it’s tax season. You know how it goes. And Tatty can’t do any heavy work, the doctor says he needs to take it easy.”

My mother was doing all the cleaning work on her own?

“Ma,” I said. “You shouldn’t be doing all that alone. I’m hiring a cleaning crew, bochurim or something, I’ll figure it out. You won’t have to do a thing, just give instructions. I’ll take care of everything else.”


got the cleaning crew scheduled for the beginning of the next week, and Ma thanked me a million times. I waved it off; this was nothing. Of course my parents needed help with Pesach cleaning; they shouldn’t have to do it alone.

With all the cleaning out of the way, Ma sounded a lot calmer, excited to get busy with cooking and everything else. I was happy that things seemed to be working out nicely.

And then my sister Yaeli called.

It was nice to hear from her; we’re in touch by text pretty often, phone calls — not as much.

“Hey, what’s up?” I asked.

We made small talk for a few minutes, kids, family, Yom Tov plans. Yaeli was pretty busy, they were hosting a major kiruv-style Seder for college students. She and her husband did really did amazing work out there.

“Actually, I called about Pesach,” she said. “Not about us, but about Tatty and Ma. I spoke to Ma the other day, and it just sounds like she’s kinda bitten off more than she can chew.”

I thought about the conversation I’d had with my mother, and the cleaning help I’d organized. “She had a cleaning crew in,” I told Yaeli, skirting the fact that I’d arranged and paid for it. “I thought that helped.”

“It did, she told me she was so grateful, but still.” Yaeli sounded like she was out, somewhere noisy. “Sorry… I’m just out buying paper goods. But this is important, and I never get a minute to talk on the phone privately at home. Basically, I know that Ma wants to do this, host and cook and make a beautiful Yom Tov for the family. But… it’s not really working. It’s too much.”

“In what way?” I asked. Maybe I could help, more cleaning help or something.

Yaeli sighed. “That’s the thing. It’s not exactly the cleaning, or even the cooking, really. It’s the hosting. Tzivia’s arriving in a couple of days, and the house isn’t big. Ma’s gonna be dealing with laundry and mess and toys and noise and dishes, all hours of the day and night. Not to mention preparing three meals a day for everyone, plus Yom Tov. They don’t have a Pesach kitchen, which makes it more stressful. And Tzivia’s kids are a handful.”

“Hmm.” My mind was whirring; what was there to do about this?

“Ma’s not getting any younger, and Tatty really has to take it easy,” Yaeli continued. “I’m just concerned it’s too much. And when I speak to Ma… look, she doesn’t sound great. I’m worried, really.”

“What about the girls? Aren’t they helping out?” We had two younger sisters at home; where were they?

“You mean Sheva and Blumie?” Yaeli said. “Look, they try, but they’re adults, and they have so much going on themselves. Sheva’s not doing great, either, you know she was in middle of a shidduch that looked really promising, and it fell through. And Blumie’s crazy busy with tax season. Ma says she’s barely seen her all week.”

“That’s hard.” I thought for a moment. “Listen, Nava’s ordering some of our food from a great catering service. Maybe we can order for Ma, too?”

“That’s really nice of you, I’m sure it would help. But like I said, I don’t think cooking is the thing, really. Ma likes cooking, it’s more about… like I said, the hosting.” Yaeli sighed. “I know it’s so close to Yom Tov already. I was just wondering if we can somehow change the plans. I would invite everyone to me, but it’s far, and we don’t have the sleeping space, not to mention that it’ll be so hectic with all the students.”

“No, that doesn’t make sense,” I said. But the solution was pretty obvious. “Why don’t they all just come to me?”


took a bunch more phone calls to Ma and Tatty until they agreed, but eventually Ma conceded.

“I really thought we could do it, but honestly, it’s too much,” she admitted.

I wanted to call my sisters too, explain the situation, but Ma insisted that she’d break the news herself.

Nava was excited that we’d be hosting. She went on a whirlwind spree to outfit the guest rooms with new linen and welcome baskets.

We ordered more food, and Camila got busy in the kitchen, under Nava’s guidance, whipping up gourmet dishes and kosher l’Pesach goodies to fill the freezer.

“Remind me: What are the ages of Tzivia’s kids? I want to get each child an afikomen gift for the Seder,” Nava said, eyes sparkling as she tapped various ideas into Amazon. “This remote control car would be amazing for the boys, no?”

“Nava, you’re incredible. I don’t know anyone else who would even think like that,” I told her. “It’s going to be a beautiful Yom Tov.”


nd it was, it really was. Mostly.

Nava had everything organized to perfection. The rooms, prizes for the kids, a delectable menu, even a pre-Yom Tov brunch that made me feel like we were back in the hotel we went to last year.

Everyone arrived on schedule, the kids welcomed their Israeli cousins nicely and took them to play, and it seemed Yom Tov was off to a picture-perfect start.

Except that my sisters — Blumie and Sheva, and also Tzivia — just didn’t seem happy.

They thanked Nava politely, told me the house was beautiful, thanks for everything, but there was a… distance, a coldness between us.

I noticed them talking a lot, huddled on the couches together, sharing nosh conversations in hushed tones. Whenever Nava came to join them, they smiled warmly and made space for her, but then the conversations kind of died down and they went back to their magazines.

Nava was a little bewildered, but I was hurt. Here we were, going all out to host a magnificent Yom Tov, and my sisters were acting cliquey and snobby, as if we were strangers.

On the second morning of Yom Tov, I’d had enough.

I was taking a drink just before heading out to shul, and Tzivia was feeding her kids yogurt and Pesach sponge cake for breakfast.

“Gut Yom Tov, how’s everything?” I greeted her.

She gave a small smile. “Everything’s great. Thank you.”

Again. The polite, distant, cold gratitude, no sibling banter, no real conversation.

I was her brother, not hotel manager. Why weren’t my siblings responding in kind?

I decided to say something.

“I’ve been wondering….” I said, delicately, pouring milk into my coffee. “I noticed that Sheva and Blumie have been pretty quiet the last couple days. Is everything okay?”

To be honest, it was Tzivia, too, and “quiet” was the wrong word, but you had to be diplomatic about these things.

Tzivia turned to me slowly, as if weighing her response.

“Actually, no,” she said finally. “It’s not so okay for them. This whole Yom Tov isn’t.”

I felt punched in the gut. This whole Yom Tov? What about it was not so okay? The luxury accommodations, the hard work we put in so everyone should feel welcome, the last-minute arrangements so that Tatty, Ma, and the entire family could be comfortable over Yom Tov?

“What do you mean?” I asked her.

Tzivia shrugged, looking a little uncomfortable. “You know. They wanted to be home. They’re adults. They don’t like being treated like tagalongs and just… told where to go. Especially last minute.”

She said those words accusingly, like she wasn’t just talking about our younger sisters, but about herself, too.

And now I was getting angry.

They were complaining about what we’d done? When Nava and I were bending over backwards to help out my parents who were struggling, and still let them enjoy their grandchildren over Yom Tov?

“You know, Benny, it’s really nice that you have the money to spare and all that,” Tzivia said, somehow taking my stunned silence as an invitation to say more. “But they… and we… were looking forward to a Yom Tov by Ma, in Lakewood. We didn’t appreciate being informed that our plans had been changed.” She shrugged. “We don’t have a ton of money, and Blumie and Sheva might not be married, but that doesn’t mean they don’t also want a say in where they spend Pesach.”

I couldn’t believe it.

She was sitting there, at my table, being catered to like a princess on a Pesach program, and complaining that we’d been insensitive by making last-minute plans to host her family.

The coffee was burning on my tongue. The words burned in my throat.

“I have to go,” I rasped, and left the room before I could say something I knew I’d regret.

If I could tell Tzivia one thing, it would be: I’m the one in touch with our parents’ needs — and this is what they needed to enjoy Yom Tov. 


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1008)

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