One Mother’s Paradox
By Miriam Stein

I bought my nine-year-old daughter roller skates today
They cost twenty dollars
Two miles away children eat cereal for dinner
It’s all their family can afford
My daughter doesn’t understand why I’m upset

She’s heard me describe the poverty and suffering I’ve seen
She’s shared dinner table talks about human misery
She’s even sent money to help the starving overseas
But she doesn’t really understand

She’s never missed school on a snowy day…
Because she had no boots
She’s never been evicted…
Because there was no money to pay the rent
She’s never gone to bed hungry…
Because cash to buy groceries had run out

And, she’s never known a dejected mother…
Drained of hope and riddled by the guilt
Of being unable to provide the basics of life to her children

I want so desperately to teach my daughter
To be sensitive to inequities
To reach out to help others
But I also want her to enjoy the roller skates

This poem originally appeared in the Christian Science Monitor.
It won Honorable Mention in the Soul-Making Literary Competition 2004.


By Miriam Stein

Shalom, my son, where can I find you?
Hidden in your new black beard, black suit, black hat
Ensconced for the last two of your twenty-five years
In a yeshiva
Deep in Jerusalem
Praying, chanting, studying
Ancient texts and rabbis’ thoughts
Deciphering how they’ll guide your journey
To G-d

From board games, dance clubs and student government
To Abraham, Moses and Maimonides,
Gathering strength from the Holocaust
And from swastikas on our neighbors’ fences
Probing, stalking, wrestling, grasping
Yearning to trust the urgent beckoning
That pulls you from within

Where can I find my son?
Whose one dimple still peeks out above his beard,
Who led other preschoolers in sandbox games,
Who wasted months watching TV and rarely opened a book
But whose Bar Mitzvah tutor confided:
Adam is going to be a rabbi
He simply doesn’t know it yet

Great, great grandson of a Hasidic Jew
With a black beard, black suit and black hat
Son and grandson of men without even a Bar Mitzvah
Citizen of a country that makes Christmas a legal holiday
And of a town that holds elections on Shabbos

Where can I find my son…and my great grandfather
And Maimonides and Moses and Abraham?
Perhaps, just perhaps, deep in Jerusalem
Praying, chanting, studying,
Under a black beard, black suit, black hat
Reaching out his hand for me

This poem orginally appeared in N’Shei Chabad.