The Kaddish – 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.
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.
The Kaddish – 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.