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/ The Kaddish

The Kaddish part 2

02/03/2019 | GM6 | No Comments

The seven girls took alarm.

“That is for joy,” explained the “grandmother.” “I have known that happen before.”

“A boy… a boy!” sobbed Reb Selig, overcome with happiness, “a boy… a boy… a Kaddish!”

The little boy received the name of Jacob, but he was called, by way of a talisman, Alter.

Reb Selig was a learned man, and inclined to think lightly of such protective measures; he even laughed at his Cheike for believing in such foolishness; but, at heart, he was content to have it so. Who could tell what might not be in it, after all? Women sometimes know better than men.

By the time Alterke was three years old, Reb Selig’s cough had become worse, the sense of oppression on his chest more frequent. But he held himself morally erect, and looked death calmly in the face, as though he would say, “Now I can afford to laugh at you—I leave a Kaddish!”
“What do you think, Cheike,” he would say to his wife, after a fit of coughing, “would Alterke be able to say Kaddish if I were to die to-day or to-morrow?”

“Go along with you, crazy pate!” Cheike would exclaim in secret alarm. “You are going to live a long while! Is your cough anything new?”

Selig smiled, “Foolish woman, she supposes I am afraid to die. When one leaves a Kaddish, death is a trifle.”

Alterke was sitting playing with a prayer-book and imitating his father at prayer, “A num-num—a num-num.”

“Listen to him praying!” and Cheike turned delightedly to her husband. “His soul is piously inclined!”

Selig made no reply, he only gazed at his Kaddish with a beaming face. Then an idea came into his head: Alterke will be a Tzaddik, will help him out of all his difficulties in the other world.

“Marne, I want to eat!” wailed Alterke, suddenly.

He was given a piece of the white bread which was laid aside, for him only, every Sabbath.

Alterke began to eat.

“Who bringest forth! Who bringest forth!” called out Reb Selig.
“Tan’t!” answered the child.

“It is time you taught him to say grace,” observed Cheike.
And Reb Selig drew Alterke to him and began to repeat with him.

“Say: Boruch.”

“Bo’uch,” repeated the child after his fashion.

“Attoh.”

“Attoh.”

Selig saw Afterke

When Alterke had finished “Who bringest forth,” Cheike answered piously Amen and Reb Selig saw Afterke, in imagination, standing in the synagogue and repeating Kaddish, and heard the congregation answer Amen, and he felt as though he were already seated in the Garden of Eden.

Another year went by, and Reb Selig was feeling very poorly. Spring had come, the snow had melted, and he found the wet weather more trying than ever before. He could just drag himself early to the synagogue, but going to the afternoon service had become a difficulty, and he used to recite the afternoon and later service at home, and spend the whole evening with Alterke.

It was late at night. All the houses were shut. Reb Selig sat at his little table, and was looking into the corner where Cheike’s bed stood, and where Alterke slept beside her. Selig had a feeling that he would die that night. He felt very tired and weak, and with an imploring look he crept up to Alterke’s crib, and began to wake him.

The child woke with a start.

“Alterke”—Reb Selig was stroking the little head—“come to me for a little!”

The child, who had had his first sleep out, sprang up, and went to his father. .

Reb Selig sat down in the chair which stood by the little table with the open Gemoreh, lifted Alterke onto the table, and looked into his eyes.

“Alterke!”

“What, Tate?”

“Would you like me to die?”

“Like,” answered the child, not knowing what “to die” meant, and thinking it must be something nice.

“Will you say Kaddish after me?” asked Reb Selig, in a strangled voice, and he was seized with a fit of coughing.

“Will say!” promised the child.

“Shall you know how?”

“Shall!”

“Well, now, say: Yisgaddal.”

“Yisdaddal,” repeated the child in his own way.

“Veyiskaddash.”

“Veyistaddash.”

And Reb Selig repeated the Kaddish with him several times.

The small lamp burnt low, and scarcely illuminated Reb Selig’s yellow, corpse-like face, or the little one of Alterke, who repeated wearily the difficult, and to him unintelligible, words of the Kaddish. And Alterke, all the while, gazed intently into the comer, where Tate’s shadow and his own had a most fantastic and frightening appearance.

The Kaddish part 1

02/03/2019 | GM6 | No Comments

Abraham Raisin (187&—1953)

Raisin is another of the Yiddish group who came from Russia, though he lived for some time in the United States. He is equally well-known among Yiddish readers as a poet and as a writer of stories.

The technical virtues of this popular and influential artist are particularly well exemplified in The Kaddish.

This story is reprinted from the volume, Yiddish Tales, translated by Helena Frank, copyright, 1912, by the Jewish Publication Society of America, by whose permission it is here used.

The Kaddish

From behind the curtain came low moans, and low words of encouragement from the old and experienced Bobbe. In the room it was dismal to suffocation. The seven children, all girls, between twenty three and four years old, sat quietly each by herself, with drooping head, and waited for something dreadful.

At a little table near a great cupboard with books sat the “patriarch” Reb Selig Chanes, a tall, thin Jew, with a yellow, consumptive face. He was chanting in low, broken tones out of a big Gemoreh, and continually raising his head, giving a nervous glance at the curtain, and then, without inquiring what might be going on beyond the low moaning, taking up once again his sad, tremulous chant. He seemed to be suffering more than the woman in childbirth herself.

“Lord of the World!”—it was the eldest daughter who broke the stillness—“Let it be a boy for once! Help, Lord of the World, have pity!”

“Oi, thus might it be, Lord of the World!” chimed in the second.

And all the girls, little and big, with broken heart and prostrate spirit, prayed that there might be bom a boy.

Reb Selig raised his eyes from the Gemoreh, glanced at the curtain, then at the seven girls, gave vent to a deep-drawn Oi, made a gesture with his hand, and said with settled despair, “She will give you another sister!”

The seven girls looked at one another in desperation; their father’s conclusion quite crushed them, and they had no longer even the courage to pray.

Only the littlest, the four-year-old, in the tom frock, prayed softly:

“Oi, please God, there will be a little brother.”

“I shall die without a Kaddish!” groaned Reb Selig.

The time drags on, the moans behind the curtain grow louder, and Reb Selig and the elder girls feel that soon, very soon, the “grandmother” will call out in despair, “A little girl!” And Reb Selig feels that the words will strike home to his heart like a blow, and he resolves to run away.

He goes out into the yard, and looks up at the sky. It is midnight. The moon swims along so quietly and indifferently, the stars seem to frolic and rock themselves like little children, and still Reb Selig hears, in the “grandmother’s” husky voice, “A girl!”

“Well, there will be no Kaddish! Verfallen!” he says, crossing the yard again. “There’s no getting it by force!”

But his trying to calm himself is useless; the fear that it should be a girl only grows upon him. He loses patience, and goes back into the house.
But the house is in a turmoil.

“What is it, eh?”

“A little boy! Tate, a boy! Tatinke, as surely may I be well!” With this news the seven girls fall upon him with radiant faces.

“Eh, a little boy?” asked Reb Selig, as though bewildered, “eh? what?”
“A boy, Reb Selig, a Kaddish!” announced the “grandmother.” “As soon as I have bathed him, I will show him you!”.

“A boy… a boy…” stammered Reb Selig in the same bewilderment, and he leaned against the wall, and burst into tears like a woman.