meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">
Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Adar II 5763 - March 26, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Sitck Figure
a story by Sara Gutfreund

Shira is cleaning for Pesach. She is in the boys' room now, and the mess overwhelms her. When are they going to clean their own room? They're teenagers now, Shira reminds herself with a sigh. Maybe she is isn't raising them right. She can never seem to convince them to help around the house.

Opening the first drawer in the dresser, Shira begins to make three different piles: "discard," "maybe discard," and "keep." As always, Shira begins to philosophize as she cleans. This is just like my life, she thinks. Some parts I should really just throw out, some parts I'm not sure and other parts I definitely want to keep.

A small picture interrupts Shira's thoughts. It is a crayoned picture of a little boy crying. On the bottom, Binyamin has scribbled his name and kita alef. Kita alef? Shira fingers the yellow construction paper and tries to recall this picture. Binyamin is fifteen now; it is hard to remember kita alef. But then the memories come, one after the other.

Binyanim with his blond hair and mischievous grin. His lopsided kipa and his endlessly ripping pants. He runs in from cheder, throws down his bag and immediately begins teasing the baby. Every day Shira dreads his homecoming. She just can't control this child. The other children wash their hands and sit down to lunch. No amount of yelling or threats convince Binyamin to follow. And every day another note from his Rebbe. Binyamin hit Daniel. Binyamin didn't hand in his homework.

She and her husband run from one chinuch expert to another. They daven. And Binyamin somehow keeps going from one year to the next -- just inching by. Until this year, that is. This year Binyamin starts hanging out with a bad crowd. Tatte threatens him and punishes him. But all the grounding in the world doesn't help. Their Rav tells them to let him be and to just be positive towards him.

Positive? What can they say to him? And so, they ignore him, pretending not to notice when he won't sit down to the Shabbos table. Looking away when he sleeps through minyan. Shira says Tehillim. She runs to the Kosel and pleads: Help us! But Shira is sure now that she has never seen this picture.

Binyamin must have drawn it and put it away himself. The little boy is crying in the picture. He is all alone. It is a stick figure, the messy drawing of a six- year-old, but it makes Shira cry nonetheless. She puts her head down in her arms and sobs. All that time, throughout all of Binyamin's antics, she has never felt his pain.


It is Erev Pesach. Shira spreads the snow white tablecloth onto the dining room table and begins to take out the crystal wine glasses. Ever since she has found Binyamin's picture, she finds herself remembering him as a baby. Her firstborn. The colicky baby.

Night after night she rocks him to sleep. She is so tired. And then Binyamin as a toddler. Already a big brother. He's the one who has to grow up faster than the rest.

Shira sets a place for Binyamin next to Tatte. She is not expecting him to come to the seder but she sets a place anyway.

Soon Shira is caught in the Yom Tov rush. Setting out the dresses and the suits. Nursing the baby. Putting together the seder plate. Finally, it is time to light candles. Shira thinks of the little yellow picture as she davens. How could she have missed his pain? She is always so stuck in her own world, she realizes. She has been so angry at Binyamin for causing her so much trouble that she hasn't been able to love him. She hasn't been able to love him!

"Hashem!" she cries softly, "take me out of my Mitzrayim, my narrowness. Help me love Binyamin! Help me forget myself!"

Tatte comes home from shul and arranges the Haggadas. The family gathers around the elegant table. Tatte lifts the polished Kiddush cup. Suddenly they hear footsteps in the kitchen. And Binyamin walks up to the table and stands in his place beside his father.

He doesn't have on a hat or jacket. But he's here! He's here!

Shira rejoices inwardly. Tatte glances at him and then at her. She smiles at him and then at Binyamin. Shira sees tears in her husband's eyes as he begins to make Kiddush.

After the seder, Binyamin heads towards his room. Shira follows him.

"Binyamin. Wait," she calls. "I want to tell you something."

"What?" Binyamin asks, glancing away.

"I love you," Shira says. She realizes it is hard for her to say, so she says it again. "I love you, Binyamin."

Binyamin looks at her with startled eyes. He turns his face away so that Shira will not see his tears.

"I love you and I'm here for you," Shira tells him. Binyamin mumbles a quick `thank you' and continues on to his room.

Shira walks into her bedroom and picks up the worn-out picture lying on her dresser. She stares at it in the moonlight. "Hashem, take away his pain," she whispers. Not my pain. His pain. "Please take care of Binyamin."


Years later, Shira stands proudly beneath Binyamin's chupa. She looks at his beautiful, graceful kalla. And then back again at her son, davening with a kavana she has never seen before. She hopes that he is praying for love and for understanding, for his children...


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.