Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Teves 5762 - December 26, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family
Chessed Bread
a story by H. Regev

The big grandfather clock gonged loudly and R' Chanoch rose from his comfortable armchair, stretching his legs as he did so, before moving down the hall. As usual, his slipper caught on the broken tile near the entrance door and he swayed slightly before catching his balance again. The familiar, expected knock sounded. R' Chanoch knew that it would immediately follow the gong and had prepared himself in advance. He cleared his throat and called out, "Just a minute!" while looking through the peephole as a matter of habit, even though he knew exactly who was waiting on the other side, and turned the key in the lock.

The smile was all prepared in advance, like a familiar formula. His thin lips pulled to the sides and a warm smile spread over his lined face. Mrs. Groner, the next door neighbor, was standing there, energetic as always. In her hands she held a steaming tray which exuded a delicious aroma. "This is for you, Reb Chanoch. Enjoy!"

"Thank you!" he nodded, still smiling. "Tizku lemitzvos!"

Sometimes it seemed to him that he was rehearsing a part in a familiar play. For a while she used to add, "Careful, the food is very hot!" or "Hold the tray steady. Be careful not to spill the soup!" Sometimes he felt like a small child who couldn't take care of himself, with everyone giving him endless instructions and warnings so that he wouldn't falter. Today, it seemed that she had decided to go easy on him with the warnings, since he had probably digested all the instructions already.

About two years before, he had tried to protest against the regular meals that the neighbors were sending every day. It had all started at the end of the shiva period for his late wife. Mr. Groner had come to his house and stood there on the threadbare rug of his living room, hands stuck in his business suit pockets. His forehead was creased in thought as he checked out the surroundings. It seemed he was trying to size up the situation of the new widower and his meager possessions. R' Chanoch stared out the window uncomfortably. Low clouds were moving heavily through the gray evening sky, reflecting his somber mood. Mr. Groner stood opposite him, his head almost touching the simple light fixture, and asked abruptly, "Does R' Chanoch need anything, perhaps?" There was a decisive tone to his voice, and R' Chanoch had ensconced himself even further into the old armchair. The familiar velvet covering caressed his back and created a feeling of soothing comfort. He looked up directly at Mr. Groner and answered evenly, "No, thank you. I don't need a thing. The children will continue to come in the mornings, b'ezras Hashem. The granddaughters will help clean up and I still have the strength to go out and shop for my needs."

"And who will do the cooking?" retorted Mr. Groner, his foot tapping lightly on the old rug. R' Chanoch laughed pleasantly, "I don't need fancy meals. I really don't eat much and it's enough for me to cook once or twice a week. And if not, I'm sure my daughters won't let me go hungry."

Mr. Groner jumped at the opening. "Wonderful! We'll make sure you have a hot meal every day!"

"Please, I really appreciate it, but it's unnecessary. I can manage fine on my own," R' Chanoch insisted. "I know how to cook, too."

"We will not allow anyone in our building to be neglected," Eliezer Groner responded in a firm tone.

R' Chanoch attempted to protest, "But it's really no problem for me."

"Mrs. Groner has to cook anyway for the whole family so that we won't even feel it," Mr. Groner explained, firmly but gently, and with a wave of his hand, the matter was settled. R' Chanoch sighed deeply and gave it one last try. "But really, it's not worth the bother. I can easily prepare my own lunches. I told my daughter the same thing."

"If you're afraid of other people finding out, I promise you that no one else will know about it," Mr. Groner reassured him.

"All right, all right," R' Chanoch nodded in assent. He felt as if he were chasing away an annoying fly. He once more tried to refuse the proffered help but to no avail. Mr. Groner was even more stubborn -- he wasn't about to give up the mitzva of helping the new, lonely widower manage his daily life.

Visibly relaxed now. Eliezer Groner sat down on the edge of the sofa, his legs stretched out. "So what's new?" R' Chanoch asked, changing the subject of hot lunches.

"You know we belong to an organization which helps people in this neighborhood and other parts of the city as well," Eliezer said. His eyes shone as he told of broken families that had been rehabilitated through the chessed organization. R' Chanoch recognized the brightness in his neighbor's eyes; it signaled that a story was about to be told emotionally and in great detail.

"How wonderful, Eliezer," he said with emphasis, hoping to head him off. "You're involved in so much chessed! I'm always amazed at how you manage to find time for all these activities! After all, you work all day. I also see you at the daf yomi shiur in the morning and after that, you have to hurry off in your car and you're not back till late at night. You must be exhausted by then. How do you manage to take care of so many things and still do all that chessed? I envy you."

"Well," Mr. Groner lowered his head modestly, "that's one of our tasks in this world, isn't it?" He rose, lingered on the threshold for a moment and parted from his elderly neighbor. "It's all settled then. B'ezras Hashem my wife will send you over a hot lunch every day."

"Thank you so much. Tizku lemitzvos." The door opposite opened and R' Chanoch caught a glimpse of sparkling tile floors and a lush green hanging plant swaying near the large picture window of their living room. He saw that the clouds were gone and a grey mist had covered the sky. It made him sleepy, and a deep sigh almost escaped his lips. He quickly stifled it and pulled himself together as he noticed his grandson Shimon coming up the stairs. "Ima sent supper. The kugel you like so much," he added quickly. R' Chanoch smiled in thanks. Baruch Hashem, so many people were taking care of his needs. He wouldn't starve, that was for sure. Hashem wasn't about to neglect him in his old age.


He closed the door and locked it, and set the hot tray down carefully on the kitchen table. With bony hands, speckled with age spots, he took off the foil and inhaled the aroma of steaming food. "Hmm, very good. No, actually, it's excellent," he mumbled to himself. As usual, the food was not only tasty but laid out beautifully. There were hot bourekas, a bowl of vegetable soup with everything finely chopped, chicken breast with sauce, well done string beans and a nice serving of mashed potatoes. His good neighbor had even prepared a tasty dessert of chocolate covered strawberries. He threw his head back and chuckled.

After about 20 minutes, R' Chanoch left the house as usual and crossed the street. As usual, the curtain in the apartment on the second floor was moved aside. Mrs. Groner looked down. "Poor man. You can see how he waits for the hot meal every day. He gulps it down in 20 minutes and goes off to mincha," she reported to her husband each time. "He'd never be able to prepare the food on his own. I can't imagine him fussing wth pots and cooking a nourishing meal."

She followed his regular gait and felt a surge of contentment. Every afternoon, he got his color and his strength back. Even a stranger could tell that he was healthy and had eaten well. She went back to her chores, satisfied. It was too bad he wouldn't agree to come to them for Shabbos meals. Since he had become a widower, he had not spent a single Shabbos or Yom Tov at home. His children fought over the privilege of having hm over. Mrs. Groner was glad that at least she had taken the burden off them by preparing his lunches. In her heart, she felt that this was one of the most important mitzvos she had ever undertaken and she was duly proud of it.

[Final part next week]


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