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Dear Debra: Advice To A Frustrated Mom
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Just a few years post-college, our son has become quite financially successful. He recently told my husband and me of a generous (five-figure) donation he made to a charity. He has long supported other causes as well.
While we are proud of his philanthropy, we are disappointed that none of the causes are Jewish. Nothing we say has influenced him to support at least one Jewish agency. If we Jews don’t give to Jewish causes, who will? How can we make our son understand this?
— Frustrated Mom
Children seem to have an unlimited supply of ways to frustrate us, don’t they? Do they share tactics while bar hopping? Or tweet them from the trading floor in between transactions?
Let’s look at the bigger picture. Although your son is not donating to Jewish causes, he is following one of Judaism’s most important mitzvot (commandments). Tzedakah literally means righteousness. In Jewish life, helping those in need is indeed commanded; it’s not optional. Your son is taking Judaism’s commandment quite seriously and generously.
You can’t make your son understand anything, even if I do agree with you that we Jews have an obligation to support Jewish causes. Why not engage him in a broader discussion?
What draws him to the causes he supports? What matters to him when choosing an organization? If you can do so respectfully, suggest a Jewish cause that aligns with his interests. Or in a non-judgmental, neutral way, share with him the reality that many Jewish causes help non-Jews as well. Our local JVS welcomes anyone in need of job training and other employment support. Many Jewish literacy programs send volunteers into public schools.
Stay proud of your son and ditch the disappointment. One day, he may come around to support a Jewish cause. And if he doesn’t, shep some big nachas (be big-time proud) that you can use the words “my son” and “philanthropist” in the same sentence.
Our granddaughters will be celebrating their b’not mitzvah soon. One of my dearest friends is very ill, to the point that she has now engaged hospice care. She has watched our granddaughters grow up, playing the role of “special auntie” throughout their lives.
I want her to receive an invitation, but I know that she will not be able to attend. I hate to think it, but we both know she may not even be alive by the time of the simchah.
I don’t want to send the invitation and have it be like rubbing salt in a wound, nor could I not have her receive an invitation. How can I advise my daughter-in-law, who will be sending out the invitations soon?
— Sorrowful Friend
What a bittersweet time for you and your family as you look forward to welcoming your guests on this special occasion, knowing your dear friend will not be able to join you. By all means, your friend should receive an invitation. Set aside any thoughts of “rubbing salt into a wound.”
Having chosen to engage hospice, your friend knows where the chips lie. Since she has watched your granddaughters grow up, think how proud and delighted she will be to receive their invitation and know they have reached this moment in their Jewish lives.
Why not ask your daughter-in-law if you can send your friend the invitation? Write your friend a short note telling her that no matter what, she will be with you in spirit on the girls’ special day. Perhaps if she is up for it, and your granddaughters are amenable, have them come and practice their Torah or haftorah portion for her. Or they could each give their d’var Torah speech.
It could be quite a meaningful experience for you all. Maybe they’ll want to bring their dresses to show her or even their tallises if they will be wearing them.
Sometimes, entering hospice care and being freed of debilitating pain and anxiety can prolong a loved one’s life. If this ends up being the case in your situation, perhaps your friend can watch the service in real time (if synagogue policy allows it) or might welcome seeing clips of the video soon after.
Debra Darvick shares her unique take on life, books and more at debradarvick.com.