By Rabbi Tsvi Schur
In this week’s parshah, Abraham is told to leave everything behind and travel where G-d directs him. The midrash tells us that Abraham questioned, “How can I forsake my old father? I have taught others to be kind and considerate. Shall I now leave my old father alone? Will your name not be desecrated?”
The Almighty replies, “I will exempt you from the obligation to honor your father. You may leave him.” The midrash says that the Almighty told Abraham, “Your father and brothers who appear to respect you, in reality scheme against you. They have in mind to kill you.” Abraham’s family had no patience or tolerance for his beliefs, or respect for the life that he and Sara lived.
But that is not my issue at this time. Abraham did not want to leave because he did not want to abandon his father. I think to myself how many adult children forsake their parents.
I remember my mother’s parents needed to be placed in a nursing home in Cleveland. It was very hard for my mother. She felt very guilty, but she had made every attempt to give them the proper care. My mother, of blessed memory, visited her parents every single day. I told her, “Mommy, if you just dropped them off at a nursing home and forgot them, that’s one thing. But you placed them there because you have love and respect for them, because they would get better care. They would be supervised. They would be observed more carefully. And, at the same time, you visit them every day.”
During this pandemic, it’s been very stressful for many children knowing that their parents were in nursing homes and not being able to visit. Apparently, bringing them to their own homes for many was not an option.
It is said that the way we treat our parents is the way our children will treat us. I am sure many readers can reminisce and recall the love their grandparents brought to their families. One would tell me how great a cook his grandmother was or how helpful his grandfather was.
Abraham teaches us to be concerned about our parents, even if they are a challenge. I remind many children that I am sure they gave their parents a run for their money as well when they were little.
Commentaries tell us that respect for parents continues after death. In the next world, our loved ones are rewarded for every good deed that we, the survivors, do. They are the teachers, there were our guides, and we have a responsibility to continue to perpetuate their heritage. With their memory in mind, I pray that all of us be blessed with long, healthy lives and that in our old age we never become burdens to our children. We hope that our children treat us as truly caring and loving parents who wanted only the best for their children.
Rabbi Tsvi Schur is a chaplain at Johns Hopkins Hospital.