"What do you do in the hospital?” I ask Ima. My mother has begun volunteering several times a week. She says that in times of nisayon, we try to increase our zechuyos.

She smiles at me. “I’ve only been there a few times,” she says, “but I always try to help wherever I can.”

“Your mother chose to work in the most difficult ward,” my father tells me, and I hear pride in his voice. “Ima is working where they keep patients who are hospitalized for the long term, either completely paralyzed or in a coma. It is chesed shel emes because those poor people can’t express appreciation.”

“So what do you do with them?” I repeat my question.

“Sometimes I help the nurses change their positions to make them more comfortable,” Ima answers. “Other times I try to comfort and give chizuk to their families. It’s very difficult for them to see someone they love in such a pitiable condition.”

“Are there regular visiting hours like in other wards?” I ask.

“No. Parents or siblings or children can come anytime. They usually sit beside them for a few hours. Doctors believe that talking to unconscious patients can help even though they don’t respond, so people come and tell their relative or friend about their families and what’s going on in the outside world.”

“Do all of them get visitors?”

“No.” My mother’s face is thoughtful. “There are a few who never get visitors. I make an effort to spend a few minutes with those patients and talk about different things. You can never know whether or not they hear or understand, but it’s possible.”

“It’s about time for us to go, Meir,” my father reminds me. Abba and I have begun volunteering for Mishnas Yosef, a chesed organization that supplies fruit, vegetables, meat, and just about everything else at subsidized prices for poor families in Ashdod.

“Chaim!” I’m always glad to see my friend waiting for me.

“My parents gave me permission to volunteer,” he informs my father before we go into the bomb shelter of our building and drag out folding tables. It takes about a quarter of an hour to get them set up in rows in the parking lot. Abba bends over the ledgers on the first table, checking off orders as crane workers unload heavy crates from the delivery trucks lined up at the curb.

Yael watches everything with fascination. She likes to sit cross-legged under our father’s table, her dark eyes following all the action.

People are beginning to line up. Baruch Hashem, for the next few hours I won’t have time to think about anything else except filling orders and helping customers find what they’re looking for in this maze of loaded tables.

During the hours Mishnas Yosef is open, Yael falls asleep on Abba’s lap. He hands her over to me while he closes up. “More people came today than last week,” I observe with satisfaction. Motty, who oversees the sale, laughs. “You haven’t seen anything yet,” he tells me. “Before Yom Tov the line stretches right around the block!” (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 719)