What A 6 Year-Old Got Right

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Since coming to Israel eight years ago, I’ve done a lot of personal counseling in the Jerusalem area.
As a synagogue rabbi in the US, I did a lot of counseling during the Shabbat morning kiddush, which over the years transformed from potato kugel and salads to, “Rabbi, do you have a moment?” I also offered a lot of counseling in my study at the shul, to members and non-members, to all ages and in varied circumstances of need and pain.
In my current practice, I don’t have an office. In place of a regular place to meet, my clients have been happy to meet in local shuls, parks, hotel lobbies, restaurants and other places where we can carve out some personal space. If I had an office, it would make things much easier for me. But, it would have deprived me of one of the most sensitive and precious moments of humanity that I can remember.
One morning, I was sharing with a client outside a local synagogue. There were prayer services taking place inside, and it would be a while before they were done, so we took two plastic chairs and brought them outside behind the shul. There we had significant privacy, while also having a lot of sun right in our eyes. We did the best we could.
There are worshippers who like to walk while they pray, and this habit took them outside, right near us as we were speaking. Some looked at us, wondering what we were doing, and some continued to pray with devotion, likely not even seeing us.

No one said anything to us, which was fine, except had someone offered us some water from the synagogue lobby, we would have grabbed it in a second. All adults, they left us alone.
Now my client began to cry inconsolably. We hit something in our discussion which unleashed a painful and persistent episode of tears and loud wailing. Others continued to walk around us, leaving us alone, saying nothing.
Then, out of the blue, around the corner of the building, I saw a pair of big eyes. They belonged to a 6 year-old little boy, who was watching as inconspicuously as possible. He hid, and then revealed himself, and continued this for a couple of minutes. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Was he bored with his father inside the shul? Scared about the crying? Was it simple curiosity?
Finally, he stepped out from behind the corner, stood in front of us, and asked in Hebrew, with a lisp, “Hakol b’theder?” (Is everything all right?)
Did I get off the ground yet back into my chair?!

What a sweet and sensitive thing to say! I wanted to hug him and take him home. How perceptive. How delicate. How empathetic. From a 6 year-old. I was stunned.
I looked at him and spoke in Hebrew. “You are so kind to ask this question. You heard someone cry and came over. Thank you, we’re fine, and appreciate your concern.”
He said, in Hebrew, “I only wanted to help.” I assured him that he did and told him we were proud of him.
Can you imagine the kind of home this young man comes from? Can you begin to visualize the kind of parenting and upbringing this young man has? Those big blue eyes have likely seen caring and sympathetic people under his roof, or in school, or his grandparents’ place. Those eyes fed his heart, and his heart spoke straight through his mouth, offering the kind of reaction that was, quite frankly missing from adults many times his age.
Those two words, “Hakol b’theder?” Is everything ok? I hope I recognize this young man in our neighborhood, and get to tell him what an indelible impact he made on me.
Maybe he’ll end up doing counseling. If he does, I hope he’ll consider not having a regular office…
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