Nursing Home Helps Father to Live


This month I visited my dear father at a nursing home.  He is frail and nearing his ninetieth birthday.  Presently he is weak but very determined to become stronger than ever.  He was widowed and had been living at home for the past few years with 24 hour care.  At this time he is not able to live at his home as more care is needed.  So, by choice, he is a resident at the Sephardic Nursing and Rehabilitation Center located in Brooklyn, New York.  His message seems to be that “I am getting older, not old.  And to prove the point he runs his life as always.  He stays in control.  He made the choice and it was a wise choice indeed.


My father is the President of the Rabbinical Alliance of America.  For over sixty five years he has lead the Jewish community and rabbinical organizations.  He still sees hundreds of people that come for advice or socialization.  His room at the nursing center is his new office and temporary home. 


This month he participated in a special program for the Rabbinical Alliance of America.  The organization has over eight hundred Rabbis and many came together meeting for inspiration, Torah and rabbinical direction.  If you can’t make it to the program then bring the program to you!  The way he pictures his predicament of living away from home is that it will prolong his life and not, G‑d forbid, as some think, otherwise.  If you want to live then take the courage and enter a home where they can help you.


Let me explain with a four-hundred year old story attributed to Rabbi Zechariah Alshari.

A man dreamed that he saw an angel standing over him with a sword.  “Who are you, my lord?” he asked in alarm.


“I am the Angel of Death, and I have come for your soul.”


“Have pity on me, I have my little sons and daughters.  Wait until they grow up and then come back.”


The Angel of Death pitied the poor man, returned his sword to its sheath, and said, “I’ll let you off.  But the next time I come for you, no excuses will help.”


The man thanked him and requested that he send a messenger before coming again, so that he could prepare himself and not have to live in constant fear.  The Angel of Death agreed.


When the man awoke, he realized it was only a dream.  Little by little, his dream about death was forgotten.  In the course of time, he married off his sons and daughters, grandchildren, and even some great grandchildren.  At last he grew old and fell fatally ill.  Now the Angel of Death arrived and was ready to take him. 


“How could you have come like this without a warning?  Didn’t you promise to send me a messenger first?”


“O man,” said the Angel of Death, “I sent you not one messenger, but many.”


“Where were they?” asked the man.  “I didn’t see or hear a single one of them.”

The Angel of Death said, “Why, they’re right here, all of them.  The first was your eyes, which used to be sharp and grew dim.  Then were your teeth, which once could grind stones and then fell out of your mouth.  Then there was your stature, for now you are bent like a bow while once you were straight as a palm tree.   The next was your legs on which you hobble and last was your appetite – how flat everything tastes to you now!  Those are the messengers I sent you.  So come along and no excuses.”


My father had a problem with his teeth – so he got new ones.  He has a problem with his eyes – so he got a cataract operation and a new pair of glasses.  Now he has a problem with is appetite so he changed to a better tasting diet.  He can’t walk well – that’s why they make wheel chairs!  He needs to talk so he has two phones – one by his bed and a cell phone.  He wants to stay active with his beloved Rabbinical Alliance so he brings them to meet at the nursing home.  These people now realize that these things can be done for every person.


There is a lesson to be taught.


We must educate the communities about the good things about nursing homes.  How they can help nurture and preserve life in a quality fashion.  Most of all it is up to the families to show a strong interest, support, by preserving the love and bond between those entering nursing homes.  Unfortunately when this is not done feelings of abandonment are experienced and become a detriment to their health. 


Remember a nursing home is a home away from home providing better care, love and nourishment which cannot be given in a home setting.


You can provide a great mitzvah in sharing this message with families facing the decisions of placing loved ones into dignified nursing or retirement homes.   Meanwhile we pray for the health of my father, Rav Avraham Dov ben Sara.