By Chana Sanders
I spent a very interesting Shabbos in a local hospital where my mother was admitted a few hours before candlelighting a few Fridays ago. Since my mother, who is elderly and very ill is not frum, this was a BT experience every step of the way. Yet, it was Shabbos, and the hospital does provide a Shabbos room for overnight guests despite their 99% non-religious or non-Jewish clientele and staff.
So I stayed overnight and tried to take care of my mother, whose thoughts were (rightfully) not on whether I was having Shabbos issues. But every step of the way, from elevators, to electric hospital beds, to straws and silverware in sealed plastic, there were challenges. I know that my Rav can answer all these halachic questions, but there wasn’t time to anticipate them all before this happened.
It is probably easier if the parent is frum, even if they are very ill, because it would come naturally to the parent not to request the child to be mechalel Shabbos. But with a non-frum parent I was in constant anguish over trying to comfort her and give Kavod and at the same time diminish the amount of Shabbos violation. Also, I had to try to balance how many requests I made of the staff in order to keep them agreeable. Somehow it was hard to imagine asking them to open a sealed package that I could obviously open myself, when I was already asking them for many other things I couldn’t do myself (bedpan, changing position, pain medication, etc.)
Of course I know the answer is in learning the halachas of taking care of sick people on Shabbos, but sometimes as a BT there is so much catch up learning that you don’t realize what you should have learned before it is too late.