Yom Kippur had just ended in Jerusalem. We broke our fast and, per tradition, my husband and sons-in-law went into the garden to start working on the next mitzvah—building the sukkah. In previous years I’d joined them. But this time, I started packing for my 2:00 AM flight to London instead.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, had been both exceptionally difficult and more meaningful than ever. While I found it difficult to keep my mind completely on the prayers knowing that in a matter of hours I’d be rushing off to my mother’s hospital bedside, this same knowledge enabled me to pray with more meaning and fervor, as I beseeched G‑d to improve my mother’s health.

I was relieved to see her smiling and happy, but shocked to see how frail and helpless she had becomeMy sister from Teaneck had spent Rosh Hashanah with Mom. Hurried e-mails and phone calls to a Chabad House close to the hospital, as well as various other wonderful volunteer organizations, had enabled her to stay in an apartment near Mom over the holiday. She was provided with a refrigerator full of cooked food, and open invitations from nearby families for any holiday meals if she had time to be away from Mom.

Now it was my turn. I headed for the hospital immediately after landing at the chilly London airport. It was both a shock and a relief to see Mom. I was relieved to see her smiling and happy, but shocked to see how frail and helpless she had become since my last visit just a few short months ago.

When Mom settled down to sleep, I took out my notebook and started calling some of the families my sister had met who had offered to host me over Sukkot. I also called to confirm that I could stay in the same apartment she had used.

I went downstairs, where the hospital has all its “religious rooms.” Amongst them was a “Shabbat room” where I found a treasure trove of food, drink and other items to enhance our Shabbat experience in the very sterile hospital. There were candles, prayerbooks and Jewish newspapers; wine, cake and drinks; vacuum-packed cold cuts, and a refrigerator full of fresh salads.

I looked around at this haven of Jewish warmth in a sea of strangeness, and thought about all the reasons I had to feel grateful. My mother was on the mend, and scheduled for transfer to a rehabilitation home, and the world was full of kindhearted people who were happy and willing to care for complete strangers.

At the same time, it felt decidedly strange for me, a grandmother, to suddenly be cast in the role of “taker” instead of “giver.” Normally at this time of year I was deep into my cooking marathon, preparing for all my children, grandchildren and other visitors who would be visiting us on Sukkot. But here I was, totally dependent on the kindness of strangers for most of my needs, while caring for my mother.

Two days later, on the eve of Sukkot, I arrived at the hospital as usual. As I approached my mother’s bed, I was handed a bag and instructed, “Quick, start packing your mother’s belongings. She’s being moved to the rehabilitation center today.”

I hurriedly packed her clothes, books and personal items, while my mind raced.

I was all set up to stay near this hospital for Sukkot, but those arrangements would be of no use now. The rehab center was located many miles from the hospital, and I would have to start working all over again to find accommodation and kosher food.

I balked inside at the thought of once again having to ask strangers for helpI balked inside at the thought of once again having to ask strangers for help.

I couldn’t take care of Mom and search for new accommodations at the same time, so I called my family in Israel and my relatives in England, updated them, and asked for their help.

Within minutes, the well-oiled wheels of lovingkindness started turning. A chain of calls clicked into place as one synagogue rabbi phoned another, one family called a second, and organizations called upon volunteers, until they had found a family for me to stay with just fifteen minutes’ walk from the rehab center. Kosher food had been arranged for my mother, and a friendly face arrived to drive me to my host family.

I settled my mother in at the center, and returned to my hosts’ home in time for the holiday. As I blessed the candles, a wave of gratitude enveloped me.

“Mi ke’amcha Yisrael”—“Who is like Your people Israel?” When one of us needs assistance, whether a friend or a stranger, we all step forth to help.

In Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), which we read on Sukkot, King Solomon writes, “To everything there is a time.” Clearly, this was my time to accept help. No one likes to be a taker. But no matter how much we may prefer to be the givers, it’s not always possible. And when the time comes to change places, it is important to appreciate the goodness and kindness of those around us.