When trying to help the kids fall asleep, I often sing to them. We have a few favorites. One of them is a Hungarian chassidic tune I picked up in Budapest, and the other is a beautiful tune that has lyrics in Hebrew, Ukrainian and Yiddish. It is attributed to the Shpolier Zayde, one of the early chassidic masters. When I sing them to the kids, I make sure to translate the songs into English as well.

Now, Y loves to listen, and will very rarely interrupt when I sing or tell stories; he wants to make sure not to miss a detail. R, on the other hand, learns through talking. (I wonder how her teachers will handle her.) This means that as soon as I start a story or song, she begins her commentary. It can be pretty frustrating, but who is to say that what I have to say is really any more important than what she has to tell?

Anyway, the other night, R asked that I sing “Kol Bayaar,” the Shpolier Zayde’s song. Here is a loose English translation:

I hear in the forest a cry and a shout,
A father seeks his children who’ve wandered about.
Children, children, where can you be,
That you no longer remember me?
Children, children, please come home,
Because I am sad sitting all alone.
Father, father, how can we return once more,
When the guard stands at the king’s door?

Just as I was getting into things, R piped up, “It’s not fair. How come the guard does not let them into the house? The children can’t stay outside by themselves in the forest…” Upon further reflection she comforted herself, “But there are no guards in Montreal, right?”

“Of course,” I murmured.

“And there aren’t any guards in Detroit near Bubby’s house, right?” she said hopefully, “Anyway, Bubby doesn’t have any children.”

“That’s right, baby girl. You don’t have to worry about any guards.”

But the issue was still not settled. The next night, she was still troubled. “How come the children didn’t just go into the house with the father? He could bring them in when he goes back home from looking!”

And then the next night she had another point, equally right. “How come the guard doesn’t bring the children in? He should alow them in . . .”

She is right. The cards do seem to be stacked against the kids.

It is explained that the father in the metaphor is G‑d, and we are the children. G‑d “wanders in the forest” looking for us, His lost children. He is lonely without us, and misses us terribly. Yet we reply that we cannot come home because the guard—our evil inclination—stands at the door, stopping us from doing what is right. The elder chassidim would point out that the song ends with us telling G‑d that it is the evil inclination—His agent—that is preventing our reunion. And G‑d does not reply.

Obviously, G‑d is the paradigm of fairness. But here on earth, we do not see it. We just see all our challenges, the guards at the door. And the reunion remains deferred.

The great lover of Israel, the Shpolier Zayde, laid the blame at the anthropomorphical feet of the Almighty: “You made this world so tempting, and gave Your children such strong urges to sin; how could You expect them to get past the menacing guard?”

And I think R agrees with him.