By Malkie Hirsch
“Mommy, will there be anyone else saying Kaddish on Shabbos in Monsey? I really don’t like saying it alone.”
This statement was made by my 10-year-old son.
As I sit here and write this, chills crawl up and down my arms.
My 10-year-old son asked this, pretty casually.
How is this possible?
Why does my fourth grader know how to expertly recite Kaddish? How did this happen to my family? To my sweet boys? Why us?
Why does my 12-year-old need to worry about making minyan on time during our visiting-day excursion? As we sat, waiting for my brother-in-law to finish grilling our dinner, I saw a look pass over his young face, and as soon as he asked me what time we’d be finished eating, I knew what would follow.
“Mommy, I need for you to call camp and make sure I’ll have a minyan to daven by. I can’t miss Minchah. Can you call camp and make sure there’s a later one tonight?”
I remember when Moshe said Kaddish for his father, four years ago. And how he didn’t miss a davening all year and, from then on, until the day he died. I remember having to check with any hotel we’d go to for winter break, how we’d have to plan around his davening because he needed to be extra-sure that he’d have a minyan for Kaddish. At times, I’d get annoyed at him asking me to double-check places for minyanim because, “Moshe, it’s Camelback. They’re gonna have a million minyanim.” But he rarely asked anything of me. I always did it.
And instead of being annoyed, maybe I should have marveled at the love and devotion that Moshe had for his father. Maybe I should’ve told him how proud I was of him for never missing the chance to say Kaddish for his father, for the chance for his father’s neshamah to have an aliyah.
My boys were young when my father-in-law died.
I remember the bitter aftertaste I had, the feeling of injustice for my father-in-law not to have the chance in his life to finally enjoy the fruits of his labor, to enjoy the company of his grown children and growing grandchildren whom he loved so dearly. To have that taken away so swiftly, to have to explain to Dovid, my then 7-year-old, the concept and finality of death of one of his favorite people.
How does one do that?
But that can’t begin to compare to the pain I see in Dovid’s eyes when he sees that it’s only me coming to see him in camp on visiting day.
The pain he feels when kids approach him after he proudly recites Kaddish for his father and ask him why he’s saying it. “Who died? How? When?”
The pain of losing his hero. The man who led by example and showed Dovid and his brothers what being a good son, a good husband, and a good father looks like.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Dovid won’t miss a Kaddish.
I know it’s completely intentional and, this time around, I’ll go to the ends of the earth with my son to make sure he’s where he needs to be to say Kaddish for his father. It’s the one thing that Dovid, in his physical presence, feels he can still do for Moshe, who’s here in the spiritual sense.
Moshe showed those boys how important it was to say Kaddish for his father. And that is why they’re doing the same for their father, no matter how self-conscious they feel, how uncomfortable it might be for 12- and 10-year-olds to raise their voices above the others at minyan and say it.
Since Moshe’s death, I’ve worried about many things. Every day, something comes up and I wonder how I’ll get the kids through our newest challenge. One of my biggest fears is that Moshe wasn’t around long enough to make an indelible, long-lasting impression on his sons, the way only fathers can. The way I know Moshe would’ve done with his boys if he would’ve been given more time. But when I see my young boys’ need to recite Kaddish for Moshe, I think that maybe they’ll have the tools to live life exactly the way Moshe wanted them to.
Malkie’s husband Moshe, a’h, passed away in March at the age of 40. She has been sharing her thoughts and emotions with readers on her Instagram page. We are privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.