For the week ending 6 March 2010 / 19 Adar I 5770

Sharing an Umbrella

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: It was raining rather heavily and I noticed a little elderly man shivering in the downpour, because unlike myself he was not equipped with an umbrella. I very much wanted to protect him from the rain and offered him shelter beneath my umbrella, an offer which he vigorously refused by declaring that he is capable of taking care of himself. What is the right thing to do in such a case?

Answer: Many people, especially older ones, have a sense of pride in their self-sufficiency and resent being pitied by others. In order to overcome such sensitivity it is necessary to make the beneficiary of your thoughtfulness feel as if he is doing you a favor by accepting your offer. This can possibly be achieved by telling him that you feel terrible at seeing him drenched while you are dry and are prepared to close your umbrella to suffer along with him. If you back this up by actually beginning to close your umbrella, there is a good chance that he will do you the "favor" of sharing your open umbrella.

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