Synopsis: Shloime, a nine-year-old orphan, experiences
stage fright whenever he has to stand up and recite Kaddish
for his mother. The arguments, back and forth, repeat
themselves, and his father is at his wit's end.
"It isn't my fault that I'm not saying Kaddish. It's the
fault of the people who are staring at me," he justified
himself and knew what Abba would claim in response: "It's
always easy to place the blame on someone else."
So why were they making this important task so difficult?
Miri was sitting in her booster seat with her seatbelt
properly fastened. R' Zev fastened everyone's seatbelt and
gave last-minute instructions for the long trip. They were
going to visit his sister-in-law, his late wife's sister. The
family had pleaded, the children had begged, and after the
Seder night at his parents' house, he planned the holiday
visit which he knew was not going to be easy.
Seven-year-old Gitty cracked almonds for everyone, which were
bitter as wormwood in Shloime's mouth. Abba attempted to
sweeten the atmosphere and burst out in yom tov songs.
"Vesomachta bechagecha!" he reminded everyone in song.
Then he tried, "Vehi she'omdo." His voice was hollow
and Shloime tried to join in, but it was a weak attempt. Abba
gave up and played them a Pesach tape. Miri completed the
syllables at the end of the songs and clapped her hands.
The landscape passed by the window. All of a sudden,
Shloime's vision blurred. Unclear marks of green and yellow
stripes, brown and light blue blended into one another. Last
year they had driven with Ima and now the seat next to Abba
The trip was painful. R' Zev didn't know how he could cope
with it. Besides, today or tomorrow, Shloime's difficulty
"I'm not saying Kaddish in Haifa!" He stamped his feet to
emphasize his words. "I can't do it! In an unfamiliar place,
people will look at me more than anywhere else, and they'll
"`Yes, that's the orphaned nephew of Mrs. Kaminsky,'" he said
in a nasal voice. "`Poor thing! His mother was killed in an
accident. They've come for yom tov to forget a
"Stop it!" Abba ordered. "That's enough!"
And Shloime was quiet. He had another eight and a half months
to say Kaddish for Ima. How would he do it? It would be a
terrible nightmare, especially if he was going to wind up in
unknown places. He wanted to say Kaddish, but not
someplace where they'd look at him. How could he find such a
The Pesach reunion at Aunt Rivka's was almost like the good
old days. There were moments at the height of an exciting
game when he forgot about everything and enjoyed himself and
had a good time without any hesitation.
When mincha time came, Abba and his uncle slipped on
their jackets, put on their hats and turned to go to
shul. Shloime's heart fell. He wished he could hide
among all the other praying children, to blend in with
everyone, not to be different.
The davenning ended. Oleinu leshabeiach... and
Kaddish. A young boy, around his age, together with a
yeshiva bochur, approached the omud and began
saying Kaddish. Shloime choked and his heart missed more than
one beat. His hands broke out in a cold sweat and started to
shake. Their voices were clear and the familiar words were
clipped and sharp.
Suddenly, Shloime noticed that he was the only one in
shul throwing sharp looks at the boy saying Kaddish.
Everyone's eyes were glued to their siddur or closed
as if well sealed under the shutters of their lids and
"`What is hateful to you, do not do unto another!'" he
reprimanded himself, and he glanced away with great
The recitation of Kaddish ended, and Shloime didn't dare
approach the omud. His entire body tensed and he
couldn't stop looking at the boy. The anonymous orphan went
outside, accompanied by his older brother, and Shloime found
himself walking behind him. The boy turned around and stared
at him. A look that was familiar to Shloime, even when he
didn't look in the mirror. He knew how he looked when he was
angry, when people pierced him with their eyes when he said
Kaddish or afterwards.
"Something wrong?" the boy asked with a defiant look in his
"N-n-no..." stammered Shloime. "C-c-can I ask you something?"
He couldn't believe he dared do this. "Look," he began and
took a deep breath, hugging himself against the cold wind
that was blowing. "I... really... what I mean is, I was glad
to see that... that... here they don't look at you like
The boy was silent and his older brother looked Shloime over
and asked, "Why do you say that?"
"Because by us they stare," Shloime shot back quickly and
coherently, after all his stammering.
"They stare at you," nodded the older brother
Shloime held back tears and nodded. They looked at him. The
brotherhood of orphans.
"What will they understand?" he thought to himself. "After
all, they're here, in a place where they don't stab you with
their eyes, don't gossip behind your back... They don't even
know what it is to stand up in front of a crowd that each
time turns to look at you anew..."
"Yes, I know," the boy his age began, as if reading his
thoughts, word for word, as if they were written on his
forehead. "For me, it was also difficult at the beginning.
Our father died after three years of a terrible illness and
suddenly, I had to say Kaddish. And everyone stared. And how
they stared! Not just -- you know, glances, where they look
at you for a minute - - but the whole time, following you
with their eyes, and you want to cry or run away. Or both. I
never thought that people looking at you could hurt so much.
I didn't want to say Kaddish. My brother tried to argue with
me. My mother begged me. My uncles coaxed me. They spoke to
my heart, my conscience, they explained it to me, over and
"`Shimi,' they said, `Kaddish is important for your Abba's
iluy neshoma.' `Shimi, you have to, so just ignore the
stares.' I'm a kid who always took the lead in any play and
in any activity. I'm not in the least embarrassed to stand in
front of an audience. But not this way. So that was the
situation until one day I just got sick of it all, and after
davenning, I just broke down and cried out loud. I
couldn't control myself.
"I don't remember exactly what I yelled, something like I
felt as if they were spilling my blood and I didn't want them
to sin by `afflicting the widow or orphan.' After the tears,
I left the shul and I don't know what happened next. I
heard, later, that the rov of the shul spoke to
everyone and since then, no one has looked. No one casts a
glance our way. Even when my brother came home from yeshiva
during bein hazmanim, no one stared at him the first
time, and everyone treats us normally," he concluded his
story, leaving Shloime devoured by jealousy.
At the end of maariv, Shloime stepped forward with
resolve. He began reciting the Kaddish and no one looked.
Even Shimi and his big brother didn't dare steal a glance.
Only Abba cried on the side, until he reminded himself of the
holiness of the yom tov and wiped away his tears.
On motzaei Pesach, Shloime's father called us and told
the story. He begged us to print it as is. (We apologize if
we diminished from its intensity or impact in any way, so as
not to pain our readers too much.)
"It's important that the public hear the outcry of a young
orphan!" he said. "The situation does not stem from malice, G-
d forbid, but from ignorance. In our shul, I've
already spoken to the rov and I hope that it will no longer
be difficult for my Shloime to say Kaddish by us. But I pity
other orphans. Still, if in only one shul the
situation improves as a result of this story, or of its
example, it will be to the credit of the paper, and it will
also be for the merit and benefit of the soul of my departed
wife," he concluded.