nd there was a famine in the land, and Avram descended to Mitzrayim to sojourn there because the famine was severe in the land.” (Bereishis 12:10)


No one among us would dare speculate on Avraham Avinu’s actions here. We’d never doubt and discuss whether or not he should have gone down to Mitzrayim to avoid the famine in Canaan, especially since this situation forced him to say that Sarah was his sister. We’re sure that Avraham logically considered all the pertaining factors and reached a conclusion that this was necessary.

The Ramban, however, states that Avraham was mistaken in his actions here, since he put his wife in a terribly dangerous situation. Instead of leaving to Mitzrayim, he should have davened to Hashem to save him from the famine. Through this mistaken deed, the exile of Mitzrayim was decreed upon his children, leading to the terrible conditions that befell Klal Yisrael under Pharaoh’s hand. (Rav Yehudah Leib Chasman, Ohr Yahel)

“It itches.” Yitzi pointed to a small red area by the base of his neck.

“It’s probably just from your collar.” I rubbed some ointment on his neck and kissed him good night.

The next day he pointed to the area again. “It still itches!”

I saw the area had grown and was now a bit inflamed.

“Probably an insect bite,” I said, rubbing on Calamine lotion. “Have a great day at school.”

By that night the area was swollen and raised.

“An allergy.” I gently massaged some anti-histamine cream into his skin.

“Why doesn’t it go away?”

“Don’t worry. Mommy made it all better now.”

The next morning the round circle had developed lighter inner circles. I suddenly noticed another similar rash further down his back.

I’d run out of home remedies. It was time to take this to the big guns.

The Ramban’s words are hard to fathom. We are talking about Avraham Avinu here, the greatest of the great. He recognized Hashem when he was only three years old! If he thought it would be right to go down to Mitzrayim, how could he be mistaken?

My doctor is a laid-back guy who usually dispenses more laughs than prescriptions. This time though, he stared at the circle, then pulled out a magnifying glass.

My stomach dropped. Tzaraas? Zika? Some rare, flesh-consuming spider?

“Been in touch with any cats lately?” he asked casually.

How did he know about the foster cat that we babysat over bein hazmanim?

“Yitzi has a highly contagious skin parasite that comes from contact with cats. This thing’s going to spread like wildfire. You have to wash all your linen, toys, rub cream twice daily, and take oral medication so it won’t spread to his head and cause baldness.”

My brain was reeling from the assault of directions. Walking home, holding Yitzi’s hand in mine (should I even touch him?), Yitzi piped up. “You were wrong, Mommy, no? You thought it was just a ’skitto bite. Didn’t they teach you about this kind of bite in Mommy school? I thought mommies know everything!”

We see clearly here how strict Hashem is with His tzaddikim. And we learn that even someone as great as Avraham Avinu cannot pasken his own decision, if he will be affected by the decision at hand. Instead he should ask someone objective to rule, since his own needs may subconsciously influence him.

Four days later, six of my kids had this condition. I was going crazy, smearing creams, washing laundry, and beating myself up for agreeing to babysit anything other than a human.

While I raced around, Yitzi’s voice kept echoing in my mind. I thought mommies know everything.

It’s a beautiful confidence for a six-year-old kid. But lately, I’ve gotten uncomfortable with this concept.

Mommies don’t know everything, and to be frank, we don’t really know anything. We’re intuitive, empathetic, knowledgeable, and experienced, but we’re not Mommypedia.

I’ve realized that my children look at me the way I looked at my mother. Omniscient. Wise woman. Healer of all.

I’ve got to recognize my limitations before they bite me in the face. The older I get, the wiser I get, as I realize how little I actually know.

So when my married daughter called me recently for advice on a critical subject, I bit the bullet and said, “Sweetie, this is a question for a rav, not a mother.”

I’m no know-it-all. But don’t tell Yitzi just yet.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 613)