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.