Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Kislev 5767 - November 22, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Fiction by Chaim Walder

A plea for acceptance of hyperactive children.

"I can't take it anymore," she said, as they looked at him silently.

"Tell me, what should I do with him? He doesn't give me a minute's peace, endangers himself, and endangers others. He simply drives me out of my mind. It's either him or me. But actually, why should I talk? Just look at him."

"He" was an eight-year-old named Natti.

The playground was full of children, but all of them seemed like snails in comparison to him. In the time it took the average kid to climb up the jungle bar, Natti had managed to climb up and down it, to slide down the slide, take a fling on a swing, toss a basketball into the hoop, and throw some sand at a kid in the sandbox.

Natti's awesome show included a frenetic sprint across the entire playground. The moment he reached one side, he seemed hard-pressed not to deny the other side of his presence. On the way, he shoved the kid who was balancing himself on a plank, and then grabbed a swing from a girl who was about to climb onto it, saying that it was his turn because he had seen it first.

From there he ran to the jungle gym and mounted it, not noticing that there were a number of kids ahead of him. After that, he climbed on top of the parallel barrel making all sorts of motions, which caused everyone to think that he was about to fall. But this time he did fall.

Well, not exactly. He threw himself down purposely and a second before his parents and the other people in the park had heart-attacks, he stretched out his hand, and grabbed an iron rod which jutted out from the side. Then he smiled merrily at his stunned audience, as if to say: "Did you see me?"

Of course they had seen him. They had seen him, had felt him, had been pushed by him, had sand thrown in their faces, or worse than that, had their faces thrust into the sand by him, and were terrified of him. Whoever didn't know Natti surely had to be deaf, dumb and blind. Everyone, from age one to one- hundred-and-twenty, and especially his parents who were seated at the end of the playground ashamed of their son and without a doubt very angry at him, felt his presence.

"Tell me, what should I do?" his mother retorted. "I can't take it any more."

"You said that already," her husband, who was no less baffled than his wife, replied. "What do you want me to do? Take him home? You remember how it ended the last time. I had to drag him, and he stomped and kicked while everyone looked at us. In the end, he got loose and disappeared for a number of hours. What makes you think that I can solve this problem?"

"This problem" was busy drumming on the barrel's roof. Actually drumming is a mild way of describing what he did. Natti discovered that a whack on the barrel's roof created a deafening noise inside it. As a result, he would position himself on top of it and every time a boy or a girl climbed into it, he would strike it with all his might. This would cause every kid who entered it with a smile to exit with traumatized screams.

"Tell me, what should we do?" his mother asked her husband a third time.

"I'll tell you what not to do," declared someone — not her husband but rather an elderly man who was seated on a nearby bench and, without a bit of shame, had listened to their conversation. He was wearing a hat and smoking an expensive pipe. His face was furrowed with wrinkles, but nonetheless he seemed refined and dignified.

At first Natti's parents glared at him angrily. But something in his appearance and in the calmness he conveyed when he spoke, calmed them too. They had expected him to offend them with a sarcastic remark. But he wasn't like that.

"Yes, I'll tell you what not to do," he said again. "You have nearly or already determined that this child is your punishment in this world. [The parents exchanged glances. How many times had they said that, in turn?] But you are misinterpreting what you see. You are not evaluating the picture correctly, while I see it clearly. You are squandering the opportunity to understand this child who could be a source of pride for you."

Since those words were far more encouraging than offensive, Natti's parents decided, without any deliberation and in silent accord, not to be insulted and to await words they so wished to hear.

"How do you envision my Natti changing his skin and becoming my pride and joy?" the father asked sarcastically. "Up to this very moment, he tried to be the opposite."

As if to validate Natti's father, one of the mothers in the playground got up and began to scream at Natti with all her might: "Stop it already! You're obnoxious. Don't you understand? Obnoxious. Who raised you that way? In what kind of a jungle did you grow up?"

Then, as Natti stuck his tongue out at her, his father retorted: "My pride! Very funny."

Another elderly man, with a wan, somewhat Spartan face was seated on the bench too. He had only come a few minutes earlier. Turning to the Spartan, the Pipe said: "Lazer do you remember how your mother would yell that way at Half-a- Zloty? Sixty-five years ago?"

"Of course I remember. However she didn't say that he had been raised in a jungle, but in a cave," Spartan replied.

"What are the two of you talking about?" the father asked, their recollections not seeming particularly funny to him.

"We're talking about a boy who grew up in our neighborhood in Poland," a mustached and tall senior citizen who had just joined the conversation replied. "They called him `Yankele Half-a-Zloty' because his mother had, in a fit of anger, once said that she would sell him for half-a-zloty. Even today there is a dispute as to whether she planned to get that price for him or to pay it to anyone willing to take him."

It seemed as if that group of senior citizens had come to a planned meeting, because in the distance a few more antediluvians were ambling towards the bench.

"Tell me, where were you raised? In the caves?" Mustache called out, laughing along with Pipe, while Spartan seemed a bit annoyed.

"Look at that kid," Pipe said as he pointed to Natti who had forgotten the insult and had returned to the jungle, stumbling into a fountain whose water he shpritzed in all directions.

"Does he remind you of anyone?" Pipe asked.

"Of Half-a-Zloty!" the senior citizen chorus cried out — in unison.

"But he's a doll in comparison with Half-a-Zloty," one of them remarked. "D'ya remember the pail of water he poured on himself?"

"And the fire he set in the forest . . ."

"And the briefcase `rowboat' in the river."

Every such recollection brought broad smiles to the faces of the antediluvians, revealing the latest models of false teeth.

"Okay, you guys. Let's get moving," Pipe said.

Supporting themselves with the bench, the senior citizens got up. But then Natti's father said: "Wait a minute. Who is this Half-a-Zloty whom you are comparing to my son?"

"We're in the middle of our annual reunion with him," Spartan said.

"You don't really want to know," Pipe told the parents.

"We do," they replied. "Tell us about someone else as hyper- energetic as our son. This might help us figure out how to get along to him."


"Okay, I'll tell you," Mustache rejoined as the antediluvians sat down again. "Now we are in our late seventies. But we were once kids too, who studied in cheder, played in the park and had parents and teachers.

"All of us were in the class of Yankele Half-a-Zloty, who was the most mischievous kid in all of Poland and its environs. If Yankele Half-a-Zloty was a kid now, he would be called `hyperactive,' and would be taken out of cheder to study with children with learning difficulties. But then, hyperactive kids were called `mischievous,' and that's what Half-a-Zloty was: mischievous — or on second thought very mischievous, and on third thought — the most mischievous kid we knew.

"Like today's hyperactive kids, the mischievous ones were society's bane. Truth to tell, they were even worse. Very quickly, Yankele Half-a-Zloty became the avowed enemy of the teacher, the shul's gabbai, our parents, and half of his parents.

"Why half? His mother thought that he had been born in order to destroy her life, which wasn't particularly great to begin with. She would beat him with a stick and curse him in front of everyone. She was a domineering and powerful woman, and the remark she once made in front of everyone became his everlasting nickname: Half-a-Zloty.

"His father, on the other hand, was a quiet and gentle man. Even though all of the municipality's complaints were addressed to him, all he ever said about his son was: `I'll have a lot of nachas from him one day.' This remark, which on the surface seemed disparaging, was uttered in all sorts of tunes — sometimes as a genuine compliment, and at other times as a hint that eppes he still didn't see this nachas, and at yet other times, with a bit of anger, as if to say: `Look, we both know that in the end you'll give me nachas, so why do I have to suffer so much in the meantime?'

"But his father was the only adult in town who felt that way. The rest of them regarded Yankele as a nuisance who was corrupt from birth, and whose only aim in life was to harm, damage, destroy anger and hurt.

"But we, his classmates, saw different sides to his personality. We knew Half-a-Zloty as the most good-hearted boy in the world — even though at times we felt his presence on our bodies and sometimes cried as a result of a push which didn't end happily, or a hop, skip and a jump which concluded with an `Ouch! Watch your step.' But still, deep down, we knew that if you searched high and low, you couldn't find a deliberately bad bone in his body.

"We, the kids, saw in Half-a-Zloty many good points that none of the adults noticed. He was compassionate and would appease a kid who had been offended by another one, even if a moment earlier he himself had jumped on that kid unintentionally. He was upright and decent and he fought against injustice. He was brave and never let anyone else be punished for his antics. Truth to tell, he assumed responsibility for many of the tricks we played. But even though we were aware of his good traits, we couldn't describe them to the adults.

"Sometimes, when the whole world was against him, Yankele Half-a-Zloty would retreat to a corner of the yard and cry, seeming at such times like the loneliest and most unhappy person on earth. He never admitted that he cried, and when anyone asked him what had happened, he would say: `Something got into my eye.'

"At a certain point, Yankele Half-a-Zloty said that he would not continue learning the following year. His father had come to the cheder and had tried to persuade the melamed to relent, but the latter explained in simple words that it was impossible to teach when Yankele Half-a- Zloty was around and that it would be best if he studied at home. His father left the cheder, his hand on Half-a- Zloty's shoulder and I heard him sadly say. `I know that I'll have nachas from you one day. But it's hard for me to envision how it will come to pass.'

"He didn't know how right he had been. The manner in which he saw that nachas was beyond his wildest dreams.


"A few months after that incident, the Nazis invaded Poland and destroyed all that had been familiar to us: the town, our homes, our relationships with our neighbors, the cheder, the teachers, the games.

"We were transferred to the ghetto, and our lives changed unrecognizably.

"For a while, we still studied with the melamed, until one day he didn't arrive. We looked for him, and in the end found him cast on the side of the road, dead. We, who were only twelve-year-old kids, stood around the man who had accompanied us for so many years and cried, not knowing what to do.

"After a few long minutes during which we wept bitterly, Yankele Half-a-Zloty said: `Let's drag him away from here, before the German trucks trample him.'

"Before we had a moment to think, we found ourselves in the center of the ghetto with the body. The levaya of our melamed took place within an hour, while Yankele Half- a-Zloty took care of publicizing the petiroh and summoning as many people as possible to attend it.

"The murder of our melamed marked the official ending of our childhoods. From then on, we were forced to part with the privileges of the world of children, and in one instant were thrown into a world with which even adults found it difficult to cope.

"I wandered about the ghetto alone for a number of days, and for the first time in my life longed for the cheder. One day I met Yankele Half-a-Zloty, and a few other classmates. They were carrying chairs, or actually hollow tree trunks that somewhat resembled chairs.

"`Where were you?' Yankele Half-a-Zloty angrily asked me. `The entire class is looking for you.'

"`The entire class?' I retorted. `Is there still such a thing as a class?'

"`Come and see,' Yankele Half-a-Zloty said. `It's in the former fish factory.'

"The fish factory's former building had been bombed, and except for the floor and a few piles of stones and a horrid odor of dead fish, it didn't contain much. I followed Yankele Half-a-Zloty and found the entire class there. Some kids were seated on makeshift chairs, others on the floor. All were listening to the shiurim which were delivered in turns, by each boy.

"I saw another class situated behind a large mound of stones, and yet another one, on one of the half stories that still remained. And who do you think jumped from class to class, bringing books, chairs and food and breaking up fights, if not Yankele Half-a-Zloty in person?

"Just like in the past," Mustache continued, "this time too, Yankele Half-a-Zloty would jump from one place to another in a flash. However instead of playing tricks, Yankele Half-a- Zloty was occupied with caring for the needs of the junior melamdim who popped up in an instant, before they could found a professional federation and go on strike. In that way, the most mischievous kid of all became the principal of the youngest talmud Torah staff in the world.


"In the end, it became clear that the fact that we had stayed in the former fish factory had paid off. A week later, trucks with German soldiers arrived in the ghetto and called to its occupants to assemble in the main square. The kids who heard the cries wanted to leave. But Yankele Half-a- Zloty said: `Where are you going?'

"`They announced that we have to go,' the kids replied.

"`And what happened last time they made such an announcement?' Yankele asked. `Fifty percent of the ghetto's kids and 25 percent of its adults disappeared.'

"`Where do you think they took them?' Yankele again asked. `Did they return to their homes? Did the Germans take them to a spa? No! They took them to work camps or to be killed. So why should we obey them?'

"`But if we don't report to the square, they'll kill us,' a thin boy named Dov cried out.

"`Did you go to the square during the last actzia?' Yankele retorted. `I didn't go, and here I am alive and kicking. I think you should follow my example. I have a hiding place where we can stay until they calm down.'"

"It's hard to say that the kids were convinced by Half-a- Zloty. However, something in the confidence he conveyed caused nearly all of us to follow him to the hideout, nonetheless.

"That hideout was an underground one, which we entered from the fish factory. Yankele led us down an iron staircase, and we filed into the hideout. In the end two kids remained outside, Avreimi our classmate and Shloimi, from a lower grade.

"`We're not going inside,' Avreimi declared. `They told us to come, and we have to go.'

"`You don't have to go,' Yankele replied. `The Germans have no right to tell you what to do.'

"`But they'll kill us if we don't show up,' Avreimi and Shloimi protested.

"`Only if they catch us,' Yankele said. `My hideout seems complete, and it has already proven itself. Even if they catch us, there's an escape route which leads to the square, and they won't be able to kill all of us.'

"Shloimi was convinced. Avreimi wasn't.

"`I'm going. They said we have to go,' he repeated like a broken record.

"Shloimi went in, and Yankele closed the door, while we began to recite Tehillim. After seven nerve-racking hours, Yankele disappeared for a few moments. When he returned, he said: `The Germans have left. I'll let you out, one kid every five minutes, so that their patrol guard won't notice that such a large group of kids evaded them.'

"It took us an hour to disperse and when we reached our homes, we learned the bitter truth: all of the other children had been taken by the Germans, including Avreimi.

'It's hard to describe our parents' joy when they saw us, after not having known where we were for so long. They toppled on us and smothered us with hugs and kisses, and when they heard what had happened, warmly thanked Yankele Half-a- Zloty for the initiative that had saved their children.

"The following day, all of us appeared in the cheder in the fish factory, where Yankele said:

"`Yesterday, bechasdei Shomayim, we were saved from the Germans and we must continue to be saved. Yesterday, someone said that we had to go because the Germans had said so. But I'm telling you to erase those words from your minds The Germans are our enemies. They killed thousands of Jews and have taken away others. The orders they give us are not for our benefit, but for theirs. We have to do the opposite of what they command — not openly of course, but in a clever manner. Only those who disregard the Germans' orders, have a chance of surviving.'


"During the ensuing days, Yankele the mischievous and disturbed kid, became not only the children's leader, but also the leader of nearly the entire ghetto, without discontinuing his mischievous and disturbed behavior. His original thinking, which in the past had branded him as an oddball, his ability to think unlike everyone else — which in the past had tagged him as dangerous to his environment — his courage to carry out his ideas, which in the past had been considered chutzpah, his swiftness, which in the past had been considered rashness — all now manifested themselves as top-notch leadership qualities.

"No one recalled his old escapades, because they were replaced by new ones, all of which were highly effective. The only trace of his past was his nickname: `Yankele Half-a- Zloty,' a nickname even he wouldn't have renounced had he been asked to. But he wasn't asked.

"Two weeks after the actzia, Yankele made peace with his short-tempered mother, who had stopped beating and cursing him, and instead strutted about the ghetto, boasting about her Yankele. Yankele's father summed it up with one sentence: `I knew that you would bring me nachas one day.' And there was no one happier than Yankele at such times.

"But that happiness lasted only two weeks, because at their end there was another actzia.

"While we were in our hideout, our parents were taken to the unknown, and when we left it we discovered that we were alone.

"We all broke down, crying bitterly. Some kids wanted to run after the trucks, but Yankele appointed others to stop them. With his typical fire, he ran from kid to kid, calming and scolding us at the very same time, infusing us with hope, while advising us to reconcile ourselves to the situation and to continue on.

"In the middle of the night, I saw Yankele Half-a-Zloty sitting down on a hill and crying bitterly. It was the deep, torn, and tragic cry of a youngster who bore the whole world on his shoulders and who barely recalled that he was still a youngster. I neared him and placed my arm around his shoulders in order to soothe him. He continued to cry for a while, and then said: `Why davka now? Why davka now?' But I didn't understand what he meant.

"Both of us fell asleep on the hill. When I awoke in the morning, Yankele Half-a-Zloty was no longer there. Peering down from the hill, I saw him organizing the kids, as if nothing had happened.

"At that stage, it was very dangerous to study in the cheder and Yankele placed each class in a different hideout, bringing to mind the verse, `Vehoyoh hamachaneh hanish'ar lifleitoh.' Repeatedly, he would declare: `Avreimi will be the last korbon in the class. We will stick this out together and be saved.'

"We stuck it out this way for half-a-year, uniting under the leadership of Yankele Half-a-Zloty and no one from our class was harmed. During those six months, most of the kids in our class became bar mitzvah. With typical verve, Yankele arranged separate seudas mitzvah for each and every one, securing food far richer than the potato peels we had grown used to eating.


"One day, the Germans announced that the ghetto would be evacuated. According to the information at Yankele's access, the Germans intended to bomb the ghetto after the evacuation, so that whoever didn't come to the square that time, would be liquidated along with the ghetto. Yankele announced that this time we should report for the actzia and let ourselves be taken by the Germans. `We'll decide what to do on the way,' he then added.

"Prior to the actzia, Yankele delivered a speech to the remaining occupants of the ghetto. In it he said that he had long ago concluded that the advantage of the Germans was their organizational ability and their success in disciplining the residents of the countries they had captured.

"`If all of Poland's Jews had dispersed at the beginning of the war to hundreds of places without any link with their conquerors, it would have been very difficult to liquidate them. In such a situation, the Germans would have had to assign three soldiers to pursue one Jew, and more to man the front,' he said. `They don't have so many soldiers, and their strength is dependent on the degree of our obedience to them. Thus, if we don't obey them, our chances of survival are greater.' Seeing that his audience doubted his words, Half-a- Zloty launched on a personal vidui:

"`To my dismay,' he began, `I have grown accustomed not to obey and to think independently. Whoever knew me saw that trait as negative and as a serious problem, which it was, because it is inconceivable for students to disobey their teachers, and to do whatever they please.

"`I don't know whether or not my father is alive. But he was the only one who would tell me: "I'll yet see nachas from you." He never explained what he meant by that, except for one time when he said:: "Everyone sees your deeds, but I see your heart and spirit. You're a good boy, who doesn't deny or counter the chinuch he has been given. It's only your spirit which rages, and your deeds, not your thoughts, which tag along with your spirit. One day, you will combine your raging spirit with the chinuch you received, and will be the best of all — a leader."

"`To my dismay, I didn't merit to tell my father that this day has arrived. I wanted to tell him that a number of times but didn't dare. One day he was simply taken away and I don't know what happened to him.

"`Now we have remained and bechasdei Hashem will be saved, if we make an effort. One must listen to teachers and parents, but it is forbidden to listen to the Germans. I plead with you: don't listen to them, but rather to yourselves. When the Germans confront you, put the thinking cap of the former and bad Yankele Half-a-Zloty on your heads, instead of the good caps you have used until now. That's the only way you will survive, and become what your parents trained you to be.

"`I plead with my parents to forgive me for the anguish I caused them,' Yankele continued in a broken voice. Then, bursting into tears, he said: `But perhaps Hashem created me differently so that I would grow up differently, and be able to tell you all this now, and to save you.'

"When he finished, we wanted to tell him how much we esteemed him and how he wasn't a bad boy at all. But we couldn't. He was so distressed, so distant, that we were afraid of him," Mustache added, while everyone, except Pipe, who was busy taking another whiff, nodded.

"The trucks arrived early the next morning," Mustache continued, "and we mounted them without any resistance. After that, they took us to the train station. Throughout the entire jaunt, we maintained eye contact with Yankele, whose order in the meantime was: `Don't do anything.'

"We were removed from the trucks and pressed into the train's cars. The entire class was pushed into one car along with Yankele. It was a cattle car into which hundreds of people had been shoved, some of whom could not withstand the congestion and died. The stench, the shouts and the crowding were intolerable, and many lost their will to live even before arriving in the camp.

"But we managed to move toward Yankele and to gather around him.

"When the train began to move, Yankele found a piece of iron with which he peeled the car's wooden framework, making a hole in it. `We have to wait until we near the border, but must escape before we reach the last station,' Yankele whispered to us. `In the meantime, let's begin to bore a hole through which we will be able to jump later on.'

"`You said jump, to little boys,' an elderly person intervened. `Don't you dare because you'll be killed that way.'

"Yankele included his reply to the elderly man in his pep- talk to us, saying: `Jumping is very dangerous and might lead to death if your heads bang into a rock or the ground. Therefore, when you jump, double over and try to protect your head with the rest of your body. If your other limbs are injured, they will heal, but your heads won't.'

"`Just to be sure,' he continued, `say Shema Yisroel before jumping, because some of us might not survive the jump. However, this is preferable to reaching the final station, which is like its name. After it, no one will survive.'

"Two hours later, Yankele suddenly said, `Now's the time. There's a field here whose ground seems soft. Let's take the board apart and jump.'

"Yankele decided that Eizik would be the first to jump," Moustache said, as he pointed to one of the senior citizens who appeared heftier than the rest. "He himself would be the last. Then he said that after jumping, each boy should head toward the central point, and on the way pick up those who had been injured or choliloh killed while jumping.

"The escape began within ten minutes. Yankele stood beside us, shouting: `Jump,' as the boys tumbled out, one after the other. There was no time. The train was moving quickly and we had to remain together. When my turn came, I grabbed Yankele's hand tightly and said: `See you soon.' Then I jumped.

"I was considered the central point, and the rest were supposed to move towards me. Slowly, more and more kids from our class reached me, some limping, others black and blue, and others on the arms of their friends. After two hours of waiting, we took a poll. Only two were missing, Meir and Yankele.

"We waited anxiously an additional half hour and then saw them. Yankele was carrying Meir, who had jumped before me and had broken his leg. All of us rushed over to them, and hugged them. How we laughed. How we cried. We were once again an entire and united class.

"We marched for a few hours into a thick, nearby forest where we remained for two full years. I won't tire you with the details of that period. All I wish to say is that at their end, we were fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds with the experience of forty-year-olds.


Mustache stopped his story, and looked at Natti's stunned parents.

"Which of you is Yankele?" Natti's mother asked — a question which had bothered her since the beginning of the story. The senior citizens looked at each other. Then Spartan said: "We'll tell you that at our annual reunion which will take place across the road."

"But the only thing across the street is a cemetery," Natti's father said sarcastically.

"That's precisely where we are headed," Pipe rejoined.

"It doesn't sound like an ideal place for a social reunion," Natti's mother noted somewhat critically.

"It's not really a social reunion," Mustache replied. "We've come to see the plot which we bought for all of us. You have to understand that we grew up together, lived together, and in due time plan to be buried in one plot."

"But you haven't finished the story," Natti's father declared.

"Where were we? Oh yes, in the forest," Mustache continued.

"We learned of the war's end only a month after the Nazis had been vanquished. At that time, we began to march back home to our town only to discover that there was nowhere to return to. Slowly, the news of what had happened to our Nation, our neighbors, our parents and our families began to seep into our minds. It is difficult to describe what we felt then. All I can say is that we understood that we were perhaps the only class in all Poland that had remained intact, a fact which strengthened our resolve to remain together come what may.

"At that point, we decided to go up to Eretz Yisroel illegally. We secured tickets, and boarded a Maapilim boat.

"On the way, I drew very close to Yankele, who had become a very serious young man, and even a spiritual leader. He would daven at length, and study Tanach and a Mishna he had taken with him. He also delivered a daily shiur, and obligated us to participate in it, and even to deliver shiurim, ourselves.

"A short while before we reached safe shores, we stood on the deck, leaning on the rail and chatting about life in general.

"Yankele spoke a lot about his parents, especially about his father whom he loved very much. `All that I am today is in the merit of my father, who believed in me,' he would say repeatedly. `If he had joined all the others who regarded me as having been born bad, I would probably have believed them and have become truly bad. However, he chose to believe me and to believe in me. He didn't talk a lot, and whenever he was upset by me or heard a complaint against me, he would say: "I know that I'll have nachas from you one day." Then he would kiss and hug me and say: "I know that your mischievous behavior is only temporary. I am aware of your true worth, and know what will become of you when you grow up. I know that you don't really believe that one should disturb the teacher, and that you don't think that one should be wild and not study. I can't explain why you are so unruly. But I do know that you shouldn't act that way."

"`After saying all that he would punish me — not out of anger or hatred nor in order to get even with me, but rather in order to make me pay for my misdeeds.

"`He never stopped loving me, even when I caused him anguish. When I embarrassed him, he would laugh loudly, and say: "I love the disgrace you cause me. You're still a child, and I won't be ashamed of anything you do until you are twenty. Besides, I know how proud I'll be of you when you grow up."

"`Those were brilliant words and do you know what? He wasn't putting on a show. He really loved me, really believed in me, really laughed with all his heart when I embarrassed him, and really anticipated the kovod I would one day bring him. He never punished me for the disgrace I caused him, but only for my bad deeds. He was so wise. His understanding of the human soul, and of mine in particular, was so deep. He knew that no one is born bad and that all children differ because each one had his own purpose in life. He knew that parents had to be parents, and that they couldn't be parents if their children were perfect. He knew and even told me that Hashem hadn't in vain given him a child with so much energy, so much daring, so much swiftness of thought and deed. He knew that Hashem doesn't send neshomos down to the world just like that. He hadn't the slightest doubt as to what would eventually become of me. It seemed that he turned all the sorrow I caused him into additional proof that my future would be glorious.'

"Yankele said all this in the middle of the night while standing in a remote corner of the deck. Then he began to cry, the sound of his weeping being swallowed by the roar of the waves.

"`What hurts me most,' Yankele continued, `is that he didn't wait a bit longer. Abba, why did you leave me before your time? What were your final thoughts? Why didn't you let me show you the nachas you anticipated? Why?'

"I tried to soothe him, and to tell him that his father was still alive in Shomayim, and had seen how he had organized the cheder and how he was growing up. But he cried even harder and grew sadder, feeling that he had lost a grand opportunity to express his gratitude to his father for having believed and loved him."


"When we reached Eretz Yisroel's shores," Mustache continued, "we were suddenly surrounded by a number of British ships. British soldiers boarded our boat, and gained control of us. Ordering us to assemble on the deck, they informed us that they intended to send us back to Europe. A commotion broke out and the passengers began to throw objects at the soldiers. The soldiers felt attacked, and began to fire at the passengers. One of our classmates was hit and fell off the boat into the sea.

"Immediately, Yankele jumped into the sea after him, and clutched him so that he wouldn't drown. But the boy was heavy, and Yankele had to go underwater many times in order to keep the boy afloat.

"It took a while until the crew let down a rescue boat. Both of them were brought back to the deck. The boy who had been shot was in a critical state, and Yankele who had swallowed salty water fared no better. The crew pleaded with the British soldiers to let the two boys off the boat in order to save their lives. The British agreed, but we were sent to Cypress. It was only when we finally reached Eretz Yisroel that we learned that one of the boys had died in the hospital — the only boy out of our entire class who had died, except for Avreimi. We wept bitterly and our young hearts, which had known so much sorrow, found it difficult to cope with such a blow. We found out where the boy had been buried, and met beside the fresh grave, promising to do our utmost to remain united and to help each other throughout our lives.

"All of us married and established families. But every year, on our friend's yahrtzeit, we convene at his grave. Over the years, we decided to purchase a plot where each of us would eventually be buried, and in that way to remain together forever.

"Today is the yahrtzeit, and now that we have all gathered here let us go over to the grave and conduct a ceremony in memory of the only classmate who has no descendants."

The senior citizens helped each other up, and headed towards the cemetery. Natti's parents, who by then felt part of the group, joined them. Above all they wanted to know which one of them was Yankele!

The plot contained only one small grave — that of the boy who had died when he was still so young. Natti's parents rushed over to the grave, and when they reached it cried out: "No! No!"

The following words were inscribed on it: Here lies the young Yaakov (Yankele) ben Yosef and Soroh Cohen, who saved his friends from the Holocaust and lost his life on Eretz Yisroel's shore while saving a friend. Upon his death, he pleaded with parents to believe in their children under all circumstances, even trying and stressful ones, and to shower them with love and respect, so that they would be able to settle down and eventually grant their parents much, much nachas.


Natti's parents wept bitterly. "How could it be that he died? You said that he saved . . . "

"I am the boy Yankele saved," Pipe suddenly cried out, as he moved toward them. "I was shot and fell into the sea. Yankele jumped in after me and saved my life.

"We were taken to a hospital where my wounds were treated. While I recovered, the condition of Yankele, whose lungs had filled with water, rapidly deteriorated.

"As we lay beside each other, he asked me to listen to his final words.

"Alec," he told me. "I see that I won't survive much longer. Don't feel bad. It is Hashem's will. I take comfort in the fact that my father is waiting for me in Shomayim and that I will be able to tell him that his hopes for me came true. I want him to say that he saw this from Above, and that he has nachas from me.

"I charge you with the task of telling my life-story to the entire world, in order to bring light to children like me. I want you to tell parents who are privileged to have mischievous children, who seemingly can't stop disturbing and harming, to be patient.

"Tell them that Hashem never brings a bad neshomoh down to the world, and that much good is imbedded in their children's personalities. Tell those parents to constantly hug their children and say: `The bad days are over. We believe in you and are certain that we will eventually derive only nachas from you.' Tell those parents not to regret that they have a restless and mischievous child, but to be glad that they have merited to raise such child.

"I want those children to know and to hear that their parents believe in them and love them, even if they must punish these children for misbehaving. I want those children to be hugged, kissed and believed in. I want you to write all this on my tombstone.

"But don't suffice with that. Instead, tell whoever will listen to you how my father treated me and how I tried to repay him all my life for his understanding and kindness. Tell those people that their disturbed child is the very same one who will one day honor them more than anyone else will. He is the one who will take care of them when they are old. He is the one who will bring them the most nachas, even if they punished him when he was young — provided that the punishment wasn't the result of anger or hatred."

Everyone wept — Spartan, Pipe and all their friends, and of course Natti's parents, who wept the most.

Suddenly a little boy piped up: "Ima, Abba! Why are you crying?"

That little boy was Natti, who had searched for his parents, and had found them across the road, crying beside a small grave.

"Why are you crying?" he asked again.

Then and there Natti was treated to the warmest hug he had ever received in his life. His mother drew him closer to her heart with great love.

"My Natti," she sobbed. "You're so special, so sweet, so good. Even though you are so mischievous, we love you so much and believe in you. We are certain that one day you will bring us a lot of nachas."

Dedicated to those who are capable of being leaders, besiyata deShmaya — industrious, alert and bright children who have excess energy and are called "hyperactive."


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