The She­ma in the Mezuzah: Lis­ten­ing to Each Other

Rab­bi Sandy Eisen­berg Sas­so; Joani Keller Rothen­berg, illus.
  • Review
By – December 11, 2012

This past Labor Day, I had the plea­sure of my niece Mira Bergen’s com­pa­ny over the long week­end. We paid our respects to the World Trade Cen­ter Memo­r­i­al and then, some­how, got into a dis­cus­sion about mezu­zot — who in our fam­i­ly had them on their door­post or door­posts and who did not. Mira want­ed to know if they all had the prayer, the She­ma, inside. Before she had a chance to take a poll of her cousins, I changed the sub­ject, but then real­ized it had been some time since I had recit­ed the whole She­ma and say­ing it by rote isn’t quite what I need­ed to do. So when I saw that this book was avail­able for review, I sent for it.

Rab­bi Sas­so presents the basis for her tale in beau­ti­ful yel­low ital­ics on a plum col­ored page pri­or to the action.” It seems that in the 12th cen­tu­ry, Rashi and his grand­son, Rabbe­nu Tam, had a dis­agree­ment about how to place the mezuzah on their homes’ door­posts — hor­i­zon­tal­ly or ver­ti­cal­ly. In a sage com­pro­mise, they placed it slant­ed. AND NOW THE REVIEW!

Annie’s grand­moth­er has opened all the box­es, and has posi­tioned all the fur­ni­ture in her new home. She is about to fas­ten the mezuzah on her door­post, plac­ing it in an oblique posi­tion and her lit­tle grand­daugh­ter wants to know, why not stand it up straight? Thus begins a sto­ry, a jour­ney back to a time when most of the town’s cit­i­zens were dum­mies, like in like those in the town of Chelm. A great debate has arisen as to the prop­er posi­tion of the mezuzah. The town is in an uproar! Will fights break out? No! They go to the Rab­bi who tells them that both sides are right. In fact, the first word of the She­ma is Lis­ten” and both sides must Lis­ten” to one anoth­er and com­pro­mise — thus the slant. Peace and com­pro­mise reign. The illustra­tions are beyond” the best! Such fun, such humor! We should always have such a good time set­tling argu­ments… This sto­ry is per­fect for chil­dren but this grand­ma had to Google Trans­la­tion of the She­ma” to get the rest of the back­ground in Eng­lish. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 3 – 6.

Mar­cia W. Pos­ner, Ph.D., of the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty, is the library and pro­gram direc­tor. An author and play­wright her­self, she loves review­ing for JBW and read­ing all the oth­er reviews and arti­cles in this mar­velous periodical.

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