“You missed,” Ruthy yelled to Sara, as they played a game of dodgeball in the school courtyard at recess. The sounds of girls giggling and balls bouncing filled the spring air.
Ruthy ran after the ball, as it rolled under the porch of an apartment next door. She looked up to see an old lady with both hands on her hips.
“You woke me up!” she screamed at the top of her lungs from her porch. “Awful.”
Ruthy bent down to pick up the ball, but she couldn’t look the woman in the eyes. She was too scared. Every day at recess, Ruthy noticed that same woman out on her porch waving a fist or yelling. She never understood why. This was the first time she got close enough to hear her words.
Later that day, Ruthy told Sara about the encounter.
“Do you think it’s our fault?” Ruthy said, biting her lip.
“Nah, she’s got some issues. Her name is Mrs. Cohen; just stay out of her way.” Sara said, shaking her head.
Then one evening a few weeks later Sara called Ruthy with some news.
“I heard that Mrs. Cohen, that old lady, had a stroke.” Sara said, as her voice got louder on the phone. “She desperately needs visitors.”
“How do you know?” Ruthy asked.
“My mother knows her family through work.” She said. “Apparently, she doesn’t have any friends, and her family wants visitors right away.”
“The Torah does say that visiting the sick is a big mitzvah, and not visiting the sick is the same as spilling blood — serious stuff,” added Ruthy.
Sara asked, “When do you want to do it?”
The girls planned to visit Mrs. Cohen after school. Sara was excited, but Ruthy felt dizzy at the thought of seeing the mean old lady who had yelled at her. She pushed herself, knowing that it was a big mitzvah.
When the girls arrived they were greeted by a nurse. “Mrs. Cohen would love to see you; she just doesn’t see or hear well.”
“Maybe that’s why she yelled at us,” Ruthy said quietly to Sara.
The girls entered the room. “Who’s there?” the loud voice screamed at the girls. This time the yelling didn’t shake them.
The girls introduced themselves. Mrs. Cohen’s lips stretched into a big smile.
“I haven’t had many visitors. I’m happy you’re here,” she said and then took a deep breath. “Come hold my hand so I can talk to you.”
Mrs. Cohen held the girls’ hands and told them about her difficult life. She smiled as she spoke, and the girls felt so good about their visit. Mrs. Cohen invited them to come back.
On the way home Ruthy and Sara thought about their successful visit and how they almost missed the opportunity to perform an important mitzvah.
1. Why is visiting the sick such an important mitzvah?
2. Why is not visiting the sick considered the same as spilling blood?
Danielle Sarah Storch is a local freelance writer. “Shabbat Table Talk” is a monthly feature synthesizing Torah insights and lessons for children of all ages.