Monthly Archives: April, 2013

Opting for Optimism

April 30th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 11 comments

Looking up from my computer screen, I see blue sky, green
bushes and pink flowering trees. In the northwest, we don’t take that scene for
granted. Coupled with the serenity of the library where I am working, all seems
well with the world.

That is an illusion, of course. I came to this spot seeking
such an impression. I am yearning to escape from a bombardment of news that
includes updates on the Boston marathon bombings, breaking news that Syria is
using chemical weapons, the collapse of a factory building in Bangladesh with
hundreds of casualties and other joy-sapping items. On a more personal front, I
have been deluged with reports of serious illnesses with requests to add the
sick to my prayers, articles about the tragic death of a young girl in a
pedestrian accident and links to introspective pieces about troubled marriages,
mental illness and other challenging life experiences.

Relatively few years ago, I would not have known of much of
this. While I used to read a morning newspaper or tune into the radio for a
quick news update, it wasn’t a constant companion through my day. While I knew
of sad occurrences taking place in my local and intimate social circle, word of
personal tragedies around the world didn’t intrude into my space.

Think about this for a moment.  While there is an occasional uplifting column
in the news, the function of the media is to present what’s going wrong. If
today’s headline is Syria using chemical weapons or deaths in Bangladesh that
does not follow days of headlines reporting on countries whose governments are
peaceful or whose populations enjoyed productive and pleasant weeks. Hundreds
of marathons without crises do not receive attention.  At least, when I confined my newsgathering to
once a day, negativity did not surround me.

Prior to the ubiquitous presence of the Internet in my life,
the tragedies in the lives of those I know were offset by the joys. Yes, I
heard of a friend’s stillborn infant or a relative who was diagnosed with
cancer, but at least as frequently and usually more often, I heard of an
engagement, a birth or other celebratory events. Now that everyone is connected
to everyone else, I am asked to add my prayers to those of thousands of others
around the world, pleading for a complete recovery for people I have never met
or previously heard about.   The ill
person’s name is posted on a Jewish website that I frequent or mentioned on a
blog that I enjoy reading. While I appreciate the opportunity to participate in beseeching Heaven,
some days the abundance of bad news is debilitating.

The urgent emails notifying
me of crises are not offset by joyous reports. No one posts that their cousin’s
husband’s niece gave birth, but they (understandably so) seek prayers if the
baby is months premature and survival is unsure.  I’m invited to share in the sorrows but never
told of the celebrations or the normal, uneventful daily lives that pass
without horrifying interruptions.

This is our reality. We can access news non-stop and
disseminate information at the click of a mouse. Geographic distance is no
barrier to communication. This is, in many ways, a wonderful advance. Yet, it
carries with it the danger of being overwhelmed by gloom.  We can come to expect bad rather than good. I
am taking one step to protect myself from pessimism. I have changed my home
page to a site that searches for uplifting stories, the kind that make you
smile and walk a bit more spiritedly. If I want the (bad) news, I can easily
find it, but I am working to make it a less pervasive presence in my life.


Bible Codes – Real or Rubbish?

April 23rd, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Hidden codes embedded in Scripture!  Bible codes predict terrorist attacks!  Sensationalistic headlines like these have been seen for years.  Melodramatic books with extravagant claims appeared in the mid-1990s often written by authors with little Hebrew knowledge.

So frequently am I asked about this that I’m devoting this Thought Tool to the topic.  While in yeshiva, my teachers often showed me cryptic references to codes in the Five Books of Moses.  These are alluded to in the pre-WWII works of Rabbi Chaim Michel Dov Weissmandl, the volumes of Rabbeinu Bachya (c. 1300) and many others.

How do they work?  Look at the color study guide found in each of our four Genesis Journeys sets.  (We have posted it here as well.)You see the 27 letters of the Hebrew alphabet laid out in 3 rows of 9 letters each.  Each letter possesses a specific numeric value, so the rows can be viewed as 1-9, 10-90, and 100-900.  Furthermore, columns have meaning as well.  For example, 500 is an elevated, more intense form of 50, which, in turn, intensifies 5, which always suggests the FIVE books of Moses.

The first line of William Shakespeare’s play, King Henry VI, reads, “Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night.”  Imagine discovering that the 50th letter counting from the first ‘S’ in ‘heavens’ yields an ‘H’. Counting a further 50 letters we come across an ‘A’. Continuing, we discover that Shakespeare encoded his name into the opening of all his plays in this fashion.  He didn’t.  But if he did, it would eliminate all controversy about who really wrote those plays.

Well, counting by 50 from the first instance of the first letter of the Hebrew word for Torah in the first two and last two of the Five Books of Moses yields the entire word TORAH. (The middle book, Leviticus, reveals a different word, for reasons we don’t have space to explore here.)

There are hundreds of similar examples throughout the Torah, which defy mathematical odds. An amazing sequence is found in Genesis 38. This chapter introduces the strange circumstances leading to the birth of Peretz, the 9th level grandfather of King David.  In Genesis 38:11-28, using the counts of 50, we find embedded the names, Ruth, Boaz, Oved, Yishai (Jesse), and David in that chronological order. These, of course, are King David’s father, grandfather, and great-grandparents. Statistical calculations show that the odds of this happening by chance are well over a million to one.

Why did God put the codes in the Torah?  Perhaps, so that in future years, when people would become scientifically advanced and secularized and come to doubt that the Torah is God’s message to mankind, they would encounter the codes, known to Torah-knowledgeable Jews but otherwise discoverable only with computers. They will be thrown into consternation and doubt. They will ask, “Is it possible that the Torah really is the word of God?”

In the early 80s I was in regular touch with some of the first Israeli computer scientists exploring the codes, like distinguished mathematicians Eliyahu Rips and Doron Witztum.  They were searching for the patterns hinted at in early Hebrew writings and requested my help in securing computing equipment. Back then, computers were big and expensive but my California congregation willingly participated in purchasing several computers that we dispatched to our researcher friends in Israel.  In return, we asked to be kept informed of all progress, gaining early data on code research.

Are the codes authentic?  Those passed down since Sinai certainly are. However, since the codes became a media event, some people have attempted to sensationalize them. For this reason, there is both valid and not valid information about codes to be found.

Codes are only one of the astonishing surprises embedded in the Hebrew Torah. With current events unfolding as they are, understanding prophecies and material about Islam is vital to productively living our lives. I encourage you to explore Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam.


Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

Is it right for married couples to study the bible separately as in a women’s only bible study?

Thank You,


Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Right Wing (Fill in the Blank)

Actually, I’ll fill it in for you. The answer is, “extremist.” If you say the words, “great, green, greasy” to my children, they will shout out, “Limpopo River”, based on Rudyard Kipling stories that my husband told them while they were growing up. If you then said that you were thinking of an avocado burger or an emerald suntan lotion, that information wouldn’t dislodge the association with “Limpopo River” from their minds. For my children, the words “great, green and greasy” lead to one and only one conclusion.

Sadly, language has been manipulated to form an equation between the benign word ‘right’…READ MORE


Right Wing (Fill in the Blank)

April 23rd, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 8 comments

Actually, I’ll fill it in for you. The answer is,
“extremist.” If you say the words, “great, green, greasy” to my children, they
will shout out, “Limpopo River”, based on Rudyard Kipling stories that my
husband told them while they were growing up. If you then said that you were
thinking of an avocado burger or an emerald suntan lotion, that information wouldn’t
dislodge the association with “Limpopo River” from their minds. For my
children, the words “great, green and greasy” lead to one and only one

Sadly, language has been manipulated to form an equation
between the benign word ‘right’ as used in a political context and the idea of
danger and violence. The Wall Street
, hardly a bastion of liberalism, stated in its editorial
this past weekend, “The U.S. government watches right-wing extremist groups
because we know they are dangerous…” Maybe I missed it, but I haven’t seen
them, or any other media outlet refer to Dr. Kermit Gosnell, notorious
abortionist and murderer, as a left-wing extremist. When feminists adulate a
powerful man who was having a sexual relationship with an underling (Bill
Clinton and Monica Lewinsky), or ignore honor-killings of women in the Islamic
world, they aren’t labeled as left-wing extremists. That language certainly
hasn’t infiltrated the culture.

The reverse has. Before much information was known, CNN’s
national security analyst, Peter Bergen, suggested that
it made more sense to look to right-wing extremists than at Islamic militants
for the ideology behind the Boston bombing. He cited statistics to prove how
much more dangerous right-wing extremists are than any other suspected group. Defining
terms as he, the government and even the Wall
Street Journal
does, that makes sense.

The perversion of the phrase “right-wing” has been so
complete that even neo-Nazis are put in that category. Let’s think this
through. The word Nazi comes from the phrase National Socialist. The
German Nazis were in favor of gun control and an all-powerful, centralized
government. That sounds closer to liberalism than conservatism in America
today. They were certainly anti-Semitic, arguably a stand more at home in
today’s Democrat than Republican Party.
Yet, neo-Nazis are known as a right-wing organization? How about simply
calling them neo-Nazis or white supremacists or anti-Semites? It might be more
accurate even if it doesn’t allow liberals to pat themselves on the back as
morally superior.

Is there anyone whose bias doesn’t overrule his brain who
believes that the Fort
Hood massacre
was a workplace incident and not Islamic terrorism? Yet that
is the official government line. Liberals go through contortions that make
Cirque du Soileil look like a bunch of uncoordinated buffoons to avoid
attributing violence to Islam or other pet causes. Their contortions are only
outdone by the way that they fit as many incidents as they can into the
category of right-wing extremism.

Words evolve through the years. It is as confusing for
today’s youth to discover that a book on my shelf, When We Were Young and
, has nothing to with homosexuality as it is for me to find out that a
description of a location as ‘awful’ meant ‘full of awe’ rather than horrible. It
is too late to salvage the earlier meaning of those words.

It may be too late for the political word ‘right’ as well.
If “extremist” follows that word as automatically as the Limpopo
River follows the description, “great, green and greasy,” then it has been
irrevocably tainted. Conservatives have lost a linguistic battle.  If the government’s reaction to the Boston
Marathon violence is as warped as it was to the Fort Hood massacre, we will
continue losing the battle for this nation’s survival as well.




A ‘Penney’ for Your Thoughts

April 16th, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

As Target’s head merchandiser, Ron Johnson was successful.  Then Steve Jobs hired him to create those sleek gadget-filled Apple stores.  Opening 300 stores with incredibly high average sales per square foot, Ron made Apple Stores the top American retailer by this measure, with annual sales over a billion dollars. Johnson seemed a miracle merchandiser.

In 2012 Johnson received fifty million dollars to sign on as the CEO of 111 year-old J.C.Penney.  Seventeen months later, the giant retailer was in ruins and Ron Johnson was fired.

Attempting to make his new employer as “cool” as his former one, he replaced coupons, clearance racks, and sales with designer boutiques.  He fired many key employees, shuttered famous Penney brands and began airing commercials that mocked J.C. Penney customers as stodgy.  Within a year, sales were down a jaw-dropping 30% and the company was out of cash.

How did such a brilliantly successful retailer make such fatal errors?  Well, he was no longer selling highly desirable products available nowhere else and he no longer had an unlimited budget or Steve Jobs as mentor and manager.  He dismissed critics often telling employees that there were ‘believers’ and ‘skeptics,’ leaving little doubt as to the probable fate of the skeptics.

If someone with Johnson’s impeccable credentials, degrees from Stanford and Harvard along with his success at Target and Apple can stumble so badly, each of us in our own lives, whether in our families or in our work, can easily do the same.  What is the antidote?

Do you remember that Isaac and Rebecca had two sons?  Rather than parenting as a unified couple, unfortunately, Isaac had a special relationship with one while Rebecca enjoyed a special relationship with the other.

For instance, after Esau married two Hittite women, Rebecca made no secret about how she felt towards her daughters-in-law.

Rebecca said to Isaac, I am disgusted with my life on account
of the daughters of the Hittites…

(Genesis 27:46)

Nonetheless, Esau ignored his mother’s displeasure.  He only reacted once he learned that his father also despised the Hittites.

Then Esau realized that the daughters of Canaan were evil in the eyes of Isaac,
his father.  So Esau went to Yishmael and took
Machalat the daughter of Yishmael…as a wife for himself.

(Genesis 28:8-9)

Even then, unlike his brother Jacob who sought a wife from his mother’s family, Esau spurned Rebecca’s family and turned to his father’s side.

When Isaac died, Esau is named ahead of Jacob in the burial service on account of his devotion to his father.

…his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
(Genesis 35:29)

Yet, when Rebecca died while Jacob was working for Lavan far away, ancient Jewish wisdom notes that Esau played no role in her burial.

Jacob, with guidance from both Isaac and Rebecca, becomes the father of Israel while Esau, disdaining a relationship with his mother, becomes the father of Edom and Amalek, eternal enemies of Israel.

God created a world where a physical contribution from both male and female produces children. The physical world provides a window into the spiritual one. Children do best when receiving guidance from two adults who are committed to each other and to the child, but who come from two strongly different vantage points – as different as male is from female.

Heed, my son, the command of your father,
and do not forsake the teaching of your mother.
(Proverbs 6:20)

Esau missed out on the benefit of the guidance and constructive criticism that suited Rebecca’s background and personality more than Isaac’s.   Some of us are blessed enough to have received input from two wise parents. All of us, especially those who didn’t, need to seek input, advice and yes, even criticism, from diverse people worthy of giving it. If Ron Johnson had been better at doing so, he might still today be doing for J.C. Penney what he did for Target and Apple.

Exposing ourselves to deserving differing views is a valuable asset in both the family and business worlds. Our Income Abundance Set contains many such transformational teachings. With emptier pockets after tax day, we hope you take advantage of this week’s sale to gain practical wisdom and abundantly fill them again.


Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

What is the lesson God wants us to learn from the book of Ruth?

Sheila C.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Kumbayah, You’re Dead

It is ever so much easier to do evil than it is to do good. Add up the mental and physical effort necessary to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Add the hours used for practice, the complex planning needed to free up the day and get to the location, along with the money raised for charity by sponsoring runners. Don’t forget the thousands of details that go into organizing an event of this magnitude. Then take one or more people with evil intent…READ MORE


Kumbayah, You’re Dead

April 16th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 7 comments

It is ever so much easier to do evil than it is to do good.
Add up the mental and physical effort necessary to qualify for the Boston
Marathon. Add the hours used for practice, the complex planning needed to free up
the day and get to the location, along with the money raised for charity by
sponsoring runners. Don’t forget the thousands of details that go into
organizing an event of this magnitude. Then take one or more people with evil
intent and with a smidgen of the effort, the positive is upended by the
negative. A small number of people destroy the hopes, dreams and toil of tens
of thousands.

My husband frequently invokes the example of setting up a
contest between two groups. One has the task of constructing a building while
the other has the task of destroying an existing edifice. Guess whose job is easier?
The amazing thing is how millions of people don’t throw their hands up in
despair, but continue to work, build and invest in the future. The amazing
thing is how, faced with evil yesterday, so many people ran towards the danger
to help others, rather than racing away to protect themselves.

On the same day as the Boston Marathon bombings, at least 61
people died in multiple bombings across Iraq. On April 7, one person died and
more than 60 were injured when violence broke out after a Coptic funeral march
in Cairo. Bomb and gun attacks in Somalia claimed the lives of at least 10
victims in the past week. All of these attacks were related to Muslim
extremism. That news receives little coverage in American media not only
because the events took place overseas but also because it is not unusual.

Like everyone else, I do not know who perpetrated yesterday’s
attack in Boston. I do know that if there is a Muslim connection, no one will
be shocked. Yet, there are many in positions of power in America today who want
us to be more like other nations and who claim that all cultures are equally
praiseworthy. While contorting themselves in a frenzied desire to paint
evangelical Christians as dangerous (in negation of the idea that all cultures
must be respected), they support or are silent while Saudi Arabian nationals
are granted special entry leniencies at U.S. airports. They encourage textbooks
and teachers to paint Islam in a benign and positive light while promoting traditional
Judeo-Christian values as hate-filled and dangerous. They relentlessly attack
Israel while ignoring egregious Palestinian violence. Whether or not this is
relevant to yesterday’s attack is uncertain. Nonetheless, if only a few
powerful media and political personalities share those views, they have the
ability to damage the lives of millions.

My husband and I add our prayers for comfort and healing for the
victims of this crime against humanity.  May God give them
strength during this difficult period.




Supporting a Christian Family on Holocaust Remembrance Day

April 9th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 6 comments


‘Coincidentally,’ I became aware of the plight of the Romeike
family on Holocaust Remembrance Day. In 2008, the Romeike family fled to the United
States because their desire to homeschool their children ran counter to the law
in their native Germany. Threatened with escalating fines and the probable
removal of their children from their home, they requested asylum in the United
States, which was granted in 2010.

With everything pertaining to immigration running so
smoothly in this country and obviously much free time on their hands (sarcasm
intended), the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement decided to challenge
the decision to grant them asylum, in a case that will be heard later this
month. As a human being, as a mother and as a homeschooler my heart goes out to
the family. But it is as a Jew that I signed a petition
urging our government to drop its attack.

I rarely sign general petitions. I simply don’t see it as
the most effective means of protest and I am wary of putting my name to
something without taking sufficient time to research the issue. You could say
it isn’t “my thing.” None of that mattered in this case.

Centuries of anti-Semitism disseminated and promoted by the
Catholic Church and not condemned by the followers of the Protestant
Reformation, laid a foundation for Nazi Germany’s evil. In the years since
World War II, leaders and lay people in both churches have accepted
accountability for anti-Semitic teachings and made corresponding changes in
their churches. However, that isn’t the whole picture. Nazism was a Socialist
state creation, with strong anti-religious overtones. Hitler, like Stalin,
understood that obedience to God interfered with obedience to a human dictator.
Religion was a tool to be manipulated rather than a creed to be followed. The
state’s authority must be paramount.

For this reason, responsibility for the Holocaust cannot be
laid solely at the feet of traditional anti-Semitism or the Church. The complete
dominance and power of the state was also a key factor. The German educational
system played a large part in citizens’ compliance. Germany’s laws regarding
compulsory schooling date back to the 1870’s. The laws were strengthened and
penalties for non-compliance were added under Hitler. The goal of government
schooling was to provide citizens who would be good workers and obedient to
authority. Individual thinking and strong family ties pose a threat to
totalitarian regimes. Obeying orders, no matter what they were, was an intended
result of Germanic training.

 In one of history’s
paradoxes, most of those who aided or sheltered Jews did so not in spite of,
but because of, their Christian beliefs. Some held a general belief that murder
of any human being is wrong.  Others, like
devout Protestant nonagenarian Casper ten Boom who
died in Gestapo prison because he asserted that his home would always be open
to those who are, “the apple of God’s eye,” felt that their Christian faith compelled
them to assist Jews. Their faithfulness to God and their belief that they were
accountable to Him was what gave them the strength to resist the regime despite
the potential, and too often realized, dire consequences.

The Romeike family was granted asylum because they wanted to
educate their children outside of government control.  An American administration that has repeatedly
proven that it values state dominance over individual faith-driven conscience
is threatening to deport them. Particularly this week, when awareness of the
Holocaust is promoted, signing
the petition
was something I had to do.


Boating Down the Nile

April 3rd, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

During 2006, 22 year-old Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, turned down billion dollar offers from Viacom and Yahoo. He chose to believe in himself and his creation rather than accepting an offer that would provide safety and security. Whether young or old, the temptation to take refuge in security rather than to keep on building is powerful.  While it is understandable, and sometimes it is the right choice, it is often a mistake. That temptation is what led many of the Israelites to resist leaving Egypt. What is worse, it can lead us back to Egypt.

One section of the Torah, filled with horrifying descriptions of misery, begins with these words:

…if you do not listen to the voice of the Lord your God…
(Deuteronomy 28:15)

The following 52 verses describe how badly life deteriorates when God’s blueprint for social organization, as laid out in the rest of the Bible, is ignored. God’s system regulates both our relationship with Him and with other people. When individual property rights are not protected, poverty ensues.  When the legal system fails to treat both wealthy achievers as well as the destitute fairly, social cohesion collapses.  When concupiscent degeneracy displaces family life, vulgarity overwhelms the culture.

As people turn away from a Heaven-centric vision of life, growing numbers become takers rather than makers. Ordinary citizens lose both the will and the ability to defend themselves against internal predators and external enemies. Within only a few generations, once strong, successful and vibrant societies decline to geopolitical insignificance. Their people suffer in anguish never quite understanding what happened.

The frightening section ends:

God will return you to Egypt in ships…and there you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as slaves and maids but there will be no buyer.
(Deuteronomy 28:68)

Why would the final consequence of living a life of secular decadence be finding ourselves transported back into Egypt by ships?

The Hebrew word for ship, ANiYaH contains the first person pronoun “I” (In Hebrew-ANi). It always implies a journey of significance, either positive or negative.

As common figures of speech like “my voyage of discovery” indicate, crossing an ocean is a natural metaphor for any significant journey.  The most significant ocean crossing in Israel’s history was crossing the Red Sea.  They didn’t have to use boats.  God split the ocean enabling them to walk across on dry land.

We now have enough information to understand Deuteronomy 28:68.

General decadence, decline, and decay are all consequences for a society that abandons God’s blueprint.  The final blow is that people lose the joy of being unique creative individuals voluntarily seeking out their Egypt.  As usual, God leads them along the road of their choice.

Scripture’s Egypt is not just a country from which God took the Israelites during the Exodus.  The Hebrew word for Egypt, M-TZ-R-IM also means narrow, confined, and restricted. Sadly, humans who have abandoned their Godly side often crave that very lack of freedom. They willingly relinquish their God-given destiny in exchange for a (false) promise of assured sustenance and safety even though doing so will forever constrain the limitless potential they once enjoyed.

The final blow is discovering that nobody wants them.  Having sunk into self-indulgent depravity, they have so little value that even as slaves they can find no buyers.

Passover reminds us that partnering with God grants us limitless creativity. We need to continually avoid and escape from whatever is confining us and preventing us from achieving our ultimate purpose.

The need to escape our Egypts, whether they are addictions, lack of education, family difficulties, poverty or something else has never been more urgent. Our personal Egypt is anything that limits us using our God-given talents. I have published a powerful, practical, and effective audio program entitled Let My People Me Go-How to Overcome Life’s Challenges and Escape Your Own Egypt. It provides motivation as well as tools and techniques for escaping your Egypt.  At a reduced price right now, it is a priceless portal to success and happiness for you, your family, and friends and is a great way to kickstart the second quarter of 2013.

(Last 24 hours for our special Passover sale on library packs.)


Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

I watched you and Susan on TCT talk about Yom Kippur and you said the word afflict is the Hebrew word ve-eenitem  and it also means to answer. Your teaching is wonderful but when I look in Strong’s Concordance the Hebrew word used in Numbers and Leviticus is 6031, anah (sorry I can’t punctuate or write Hebrew).

Help me understand.

Shalom, Shalom


Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Home Libraries

What a world! Just as we begin changing the look of our house, the décor that has characterized us since we got married comes into fashion! According to recent reports, home libraries are booming.  This puts an entirely different slant on the thousands of books we have lying around. Instead of following our recently instituted policy…READ MORE


Home Libraries

April 2nd, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 4 comments

What a world! Just as we begin changing the look of our
house, the décor that has characterized us since we got married comes into fashion!
According to recent reports,
home libraries are booming.  This puts an
entirely different slant on the thousands of books we have lying around.
Instead of following our recently instituted policy, insisting that for every
book my husband or I acquire we have to get rid of four others, we can preen at
our stylishness.

We even surpass the families featured in a newspaper article
on the topic. It seems we were early adapters of one type of library mentioned,
which combine books with other activities. We have the kitchen library, the
living room library, the closet library and many bedroom libraries. We can call
every room in our house a library! I don’t think you can walk two feet in our
house without hitting a book. Our mistake was thinking that this is a problem
rather than realizing we should be submitting pictures to House Beautiful.

The article I read made suggestions as to what different
types of books say about the owner. We get extra points for the Dickens on our
shelf! Actually, our books divide into two categories: sefarim and books. Sefarim
are mostly in Hebrew or Aramaic, repositories of ancient Jewish wisdom. Those
should be the really high-scoring volumes. Aesthetically, they may not make the
cut. They tend to be well thumbed; some of their spines need rebinding.

The rest of our books aren’t exactly pristine either. Many
of them are refugees from second hand bookstores, which explains the “Happy
Birthday Billy – Love Aunt Betty and Uncle Simon” inscriptions. We think of
them as antiques, boasting price markings that wouldn’t buy a daily paper
today. Almost all of them have gone through ‘tough love,’ with the victors
surviving saltwater baths on our boating trips, toddler page-turners and occasional
service as fort walls.

It seems that there are companies that will make custom
covers for sets of books, so that when looking at the set, one sees an
appropriate picture spread across the spines of all the volumes. We do have
almost all the William books by
Richmal Crompton, as well as the entire Betsy,
series and L.M. Montgomery’s well-known and lesser-known books.  Somehow, I don’t see our books staying on the
shelf in the right order to make the overall artistic effect work.

I’m not enamored of the idea of hiring a
designer to place the books by color or theme, and I truly reject the words of
one designer who claims that too many sideways books suggest that the books might
not actually be read. However, like the old truism that even a broken clock
tells the time accurately twice a day, we who are (thankfully) rarely in step
with the fashionistas and intellectuals of the times, seem somehow to be at the
cutting edge of fashion. For a short time at least, we can start book shopping

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