By Hannah Berman


As of this writing I have spent ten days in my house. My place is all but hermetically sealed. Nobody gets in and I don’t go out. (Actually, I do go outside for some fresh air, but I don’t go into stores.) Were it not for the loving kindness of my children and grandchildren, I might perish from sheer boredom.

What saves me is the fact that I occasionally get a phone call like this. “Savta, I’m standing outside on your front lawn; come to the window and we can have a visit.”

When I get such a call, I drop whatever I am doing (which isn’t much) and race to the window. First I pause whatever program I was watching on Netflix and then I turn off the television. A visit from a grandchild—in this case, it was a granddaughter—is far more important than anything I might see on Netflix.

Without the benefit of Netflix, telephone, or computer, Shabbos would be my most difficult day. But thus far that has not been the case. This past Shabbos at about 11 a.m. there was a fierce pounding on my front door. I dropped the book I was reading and ran to the window. There stood my daughter and son-in-law. They suggested that I should dress warmly and come outside to sit on the front steps, and they would sit in chairs on the lawn, six feet away from me. That was exactly what I did, and it turned out to be the highlight of my day. The next great moment of that day came when, late in the afternoon, I heard another knock on the door. Once again I ran to the window and saw another son-in-law and a grandson standing on my lawn. At that hour, it was too cold for me to go out and sit on the stone steps so I remained in the window and we had a visit that way, just as I’d had the week before with a granddaughter.

Almost everyone is worried about the coronavirus, but there are varying degrees of worry. Some people are in panic mode while others are only moderately concerned. I fall somewhere in between the two, and my feelings change from time to time. Some days I am terrified and other days I am more rational and tell myself that we are all in the hands of Hashem and that He will protect us.

But there was one concern I had last week that occupied my thoughts all day every day. That thought was this: do I, or do I not, let my cleaning girl come to my house? I worried about it aloud and discussed it with several friends and with one of my daughters. Because this daughter was herself vacillating about having her cleaning woman come, she was of little help. Some of my friends said that I should let my cleaning girl come and others said not to. In the end, I decided that the decision was mine and mine alone, and I was smart enough not to discuss it with my son who, from his flat in Jerusalem, 6,000 miles across the Atlantic, has been monitoring my every move for the past three weeks. There was no doubt that he would forbid me to allow her into the house.

I had pretty much decided I would have the girl come. The reason for making this decision was because of the laundry. My washing machine and dryer are in the basement, and, as the stairs are steep and narrow, toting a laundry basket or even a laundry bag up and down would pose a major problem.

On Shabbos, when I had the outside visit from my daughter and son-in-law, I brought up the topic. They simultaneously shouted out loud. It was a resounding “no!” to the idea of letting anyone in, especially someone who would be traveling to my house via public transportation. But all was not lost, because my daughter offered the perfect option. “Ma, you don’t need cleaning help. You live alone and your house is clean, but if it’s the laundry that’s worrying you, I can help. When you accumulate enough clothing to be washed, just let me know and I’ll do it for you. You can leave it outside the door, I’ll take it to my place, wash and dry it, and then return it to you, leaving it outside the door once again.”

It was only my worry about the coronavirus that prevented me from throwing caution to the wind and jumping up to kiss her! She put my mind at ease and all that is left for me to do is to call the cleaning girl and explain that she cannot come here. The likelihood is that she is well aware of the situation and never had any intention of coming. So, my mind is at ease but for the fact that I worry about her because I know she needs the money. I’m tempted to suggest that she come here and I will leave money for her in an envelope in my mailbox. But I’m reluctant to encourage her to travel here by bus, which how she always comes to me.

This time I have nothing to ruminate over. I will send a check to her. That’s just the way it is!

Stay healthy and safe!

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-295-4435.


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