“Mayn Yingele” (“My Little One”)

This is a picture of Elijah, my firstborn son, taking his nap.  God has blessed me with six children.  Three girls first — Sierra, Alexis, and Victoria (“Torie”) — and then three boys — Elijah, Samuel, and Abraham.  Children truly are a blessing.  (Psalm 127:3-5)

I find one of the biggest challenges of my life is trying to balance all of my many responsibilities, duties, and obligations with being a good father.  One of the things that I have found that has helped me in that is a Yiddish song written in 1897 entitled “Mayn Yingele” (“My Little One”).  I have it on my computer and read it every so often.  It helps me remember to keep my priorities straight.  

The song was reacting to the sweatshops of the industrial revolution and the toll they were taking on the family.  However, the words, which are supposed to be sung by a father to his sleeping child, ring just as true today even though the sweatshops have largely been replaced with cubicles and offices for most of us.  The words are:

I have a son, a little son,
A boy completely fine.
When I see him it seems to me
That all the world is mine.
But seldom, seldom do I see
My child awake and bright;
I only see him when he sleeps;
I’m only home at night.
It’s early when I leave for work;
When I return it’s late.
Unknown to me is my own flesh,
Unknown is my child’s face.
When I come home so wearily
In the darkness after day,
My pale wife exclaims to me:
“You should have seen our child play.”
I stand beside his little bed,
I look and try to hear.
In his dream he moves his lips:
“Why isn’t Papa here?”

(I first read this poem in an article entitled “Smash the False Gods of Careerism” appearing in The Wall Street Journal on December 29, 1994, by Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin.  The article is worth reading as well.)