Leonard and Linda Chesler, wishing to pass on to their children and others the traditions of their Jewish religion, have composed this guide to sacred days and the history and meaning of each.
Stressing the significance of Jewish celebrations and commemorations for the family unit, the Cheslers’ collection examines numerous sacred days in a format that includes an “Introduction,” “Celebration” and “Theme” section for each celebrated day.
Discussing the Sabbath, for example, the authors use the Introduction to quote scripture from the Torah to remind readers that humans are not “just a collection of mindless machines,” but, instead, are special in God’s eyes. On Sabbath, they note, Jews take time out to fully appreciate the gifts they have been given. The Celebration section explains that candles will be lit, a special meal consumed, and the synagogue visited, with traditional services sometimes followed by discussion and singing. The Theme of Sabbath, as decreed in Genesis, is rest and recognition of our blessings.
Other sacred days covered include Passover, Hanukkah, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, Simchat Torah, Tu Bi-Shevat, Tisha Be-Av, Yom Ha-Shoah, Yom Ha-Atzma-ut and Purim.
The author’s good intentions are obvious, even if their execution sometimes falters. The narrative is straightforward, written with limited flair. It can be repetitive and an edit to reign in wordiness and catch punctuation errors (e.g.: “In other words, we should treat each other, [sic] the way we want to be treated…”) would be helpful. Its workmanlike nature and use of abstract words like “righteousness,” “ethical,” “automata,” and “repentance” are unlikely to engage young children, who seem part of the author’s intended target audience.
Overall, the Cheslers work is a dutiful introduction to Jewish holidays while lacking the spark and polish that would make it stand out from many similar books on the market.
Also available as an ebook.