Archive for July, 2013

Teach us to count our days, that we shall acquire a heart of wisdom (Ps. 90:12) – Z’man/Time

Books used in this review are from my personal library or were provided by my local public library. I am an Amazon Affiliate.If you click on a book title referred to on my web site and purchase it from Amazon, I may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You will incur no additional cost, however. I appreciate your support.

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There is no television in our home.

When either I or my husband shares that fact with friends or coworkers, we usually get an amazed stare followed by, “What do you do in the evening?” If we can stop from laughing, we try to explain that there is plenty to keep us occupied…we read, we take walks, we TALK to each other. Following that information, there is a lot of head shaking, perplexed looks and mumbled, “I could never give up TV.”

In 2006, both my husband and I had major health scares. In 2011, my mother passed away. If I learned anything from these experiences (and many others), it is that time is too short to be spent on useless tasks. We both found that sitting in a room with a television on, while admittedly engaging, was ultimately uninspiring and possibly damaging to our brains. We got rid of the televisions and never looked back.

Time is a precious commodity.

Judaism has always recognized this. It is obvious in the way we honor the dead – the rituals of burial, shiva (7 days after death), shloshim (1 month after death) and yahrzeit (1 year after death).  It is there in the holiday cycle from Rosh Hashanah through Tisha B’Av, tied as they are to the waxing and waning of the moon, the planting and harvesting of the fields.  Even the 19-year cycle that adds a leap month periodically to keep everything roughly in sync recognizes that the cycles and rhythms of time are important.

Time is a Jewish value we too easily take for granted as we rush through our busy days and weeks, yet we have been given a weekly “oasis” and several annual “island refuges” to rest and renew ourselves.  Understanding time’s flow over the Jewish year, knowing that Friday nights are going to be fun and restful, the start of a New Jewish Year will be celebrated with apples and sweet honey, Yom Kippur is for introspection, Sukkot will enable us to eat outdoors with welcome guests, all make for an interesting and engaging calendar. All these are opportunities to watch time move – so quickly – hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year…

Here are some books to give you a variety of different perspectives of time:

SS1BkJewHolSammy Spider’s FIRST book of Jewish Holidays. by Sylvia A. Rouss, illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn. © 2013, KarBen Publishing. Ages 2-5.  As Sammy Spider celebrates 20 years in publication, he introduces his youngest readers to the cycle of the Jewish year using the Jewish holidays. In this colorful board book, each holiday is brightly illustrated with a very short message about its theme. Perfect for small little hands.


All in a Day. By Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Nikki McClure. © 2009, Abrams Books for Young Readers. Ages 3-8. What will you do today? Each day is filled with possibility and will never come again. Using a lovely rhyming text and striking paper cut art, this simple book takes us on an adventure filled with opportunities that even the youngest reader will embrace.

SchmutzyFamThe Schmutzy Family. by Madelyn Rosenberg, illustrated by Paul Meisel. © 2012, Holiday House. Ages 4-9. From Sunday through Friday, Mr. and Mrs. Scmutzy encourage their children to explore the world around them in as physical a manner as possible. Dirt, paint, tomato sauce, frogs and cheese are fine in this “anything goes for the sake of education” household. However, when Friday afternoon comes, the entire family participates in cleaning the house and themselves, setting the table for guests and making sure everything and everyone is ready to welcome Shabbat. An extreme story matched by hilarious illustrations will have everyone roaring – and wishing their parents were so liberal!


The Keeping Quilt: 25th Anniversary Edition. Written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco. © 1998, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Ages 5-10. Based on the true story of the author’s quilt, we read as a family heirloom is created and used for innumerable life events, becoming part of a family’s tradition over time and even into today. Exquisite pictures and heartwarming text make this one of my all-time favorite books.

HomeBakerHome. Written and illustrated by Jeannie Baker. © 2004, Greenwillow Books. Ages 5-10. Watch through a window as a family moves into a neighborhood, as a child grows into a woman, as a city grows into a neighborhood. This wordless picture book uses collage art to deliver a powerful message about the time it takes for children to grow into adults and for cities to become communities.


To Everything There is a Season: Verses from Ecclesiastes. Written and illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon. © 1998, The Blue Sky Press. Ages 5-10. While the biblical verses in this book are timeless, the artists have chosen to illustrate each couplet in an artistic style from diverse cultures around the world and from prehistoric times through today. The effect serves to validate the ageless nature of the text and the unity of all the earth’s inhabitants.

As always, Rosh Hashanah is on 1 Tishrei and Yom Kippur is on 10 Tishrei beginning the year 5774 since the creation of the world. In the year 2013 of the Common Era, Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown Wednesday, September 4.  Those of us living on both the Jewish and Gregorian calendars are experiencing a few heart palpitations as we realize that we have to prepare for the beginning of school AND the High Holidays at virtually the same time. In a couple of months, we will be equally shocked when we are frying latkes on Thanksgiving as the first day of Hanukkah begins on Wednesday evening, November 27/25 Kislev (a once in a Millennium event, I’m told.)

Happy Reading!

Kathy B.