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Sherry Wasserman Pens Children's Book About Shavuot

11/23/2020 11:46:31 AM

Nov23

B'nai Moshe

B’nai Moshe volunteer librarian Sherry Wasserman has recently self-published a children’s picture book about the oft-forgotten holiday of Shavuot, which commemorates the Israelites’ encounter with God at Mt. Sinai. I Am Standing at Mount Sinai, is told through the insightful eyes of a young girl named Sarah, and with its vivid illustrations, recounts the awesome revelation of the Ten Commandments and the Torah as well as how Shavuot is celebrated.

In writing the limited-edition hardcover, which includes blurbs from Rabbi Shalom Kantor and Rabbi Emeritus Elliot Pachter, Wasserman links the Biblical saga of the Exodus to the Shavuot festival, connecting Passover’s celebration of freedom with Shavuot’s emphasis on the acceptance of mitzvot, the rules for moral behavior.

I believe that freedom without law and rules of behavior is chaos; it leads to uncivilized behavior and yields injustice in the world.  God followed the gift of freedom (Passover) with the gift of Torah (Shavuot) so that the Jewish people (and hopefully all mankind eventually) would have the rules and the tools needed to live together in harmony.  The rules of moral and ethical behavior found in the Torah enable living in a just society.”

Wasserman first conceived the book, about 20 years ago while preparing to re-open the B’nai Moshe Library in its West Bloomfield home. While sorting through the collection, which was stored in less than ideal conditions after leaving Oak Park, she realized that only around half of the books were salvageable.  Among those, she found no suitable children’s book about the holiday of Shavuot. After searching unsuccessfully for something to purchase, Wasserman began thinking about writing one.  After considering many different ideas over a few years, she settled on a concept and began a long search for an illustrator. In the end, she need not have looked so long and far afield, for she found her illustrator, Ruthie Cisse, close to home.

“I met her by complete accident at Kiddush after Shabbat services,” Wasserman says.  Cisse, an artist in New York has family ties to B’nai Moshe, her grandmother is our member, Adelyn Greenberg.  Wasserman happened to sit at the same Kiddush table with the family and started talking.  Cisse had never thought about illustrating a children’s book but after she and Wasserman met the next Monday at the B’nai Moshe library and discussed the idea, Wasserman hired her. With an illustrator in hand, it was time to move her vision into high gear. Through emails and phone calls, the two worked together, sharing ideas for the illustrations. For instance, it was Cisse who thought of putting ribbons in the illustrations to hold the Hebrew verses from Exodus as well as giving Sarah a schnauzer to accompany her journey.

In the book, Sarah wants to share her knowledge of the importance of Shavuot and of what happened at Mt. Sinai with others.  “So, I think Sarah is the teacher here” Wasserman explains. “She relates the story; she explains its importance and significance; she tells how to celebrate Shavuot and make it a part of our lives.  She knows all of this and she is telling the reader, who may not know about the holiday, or why it is important and significant and so is worthy of being celebrated.”

        Sarah shows love for the holiday, happiness in celebrating it, and understanding and acceptance of the need to join the two concepts (personal freedom and responsible behavior in a community) into her own life. “Each year as she celebrates Shavuot, she recommits to limiting her own individual freedom by living according to the mitzvot of Torah, she recommits to living ethically and morally in order to help create a just and ordered society for all mankind.”

Wasserman chose a girl to tell this holiday story because women should also be seen to love and live by the Torah.  Yet, says Wasserman, “Sarah is not just a little girl kid. For me, she represents every girl, every child, every person (male and female) since everyone received the gift of Torah at Mt. Sinai and, on Shavuot, we are all standing at Mt. Sinai.”

“Shavuot is the forgotten festival,” says Wasserman, who hopes I Am Standing at Mount Sinai encourages children and adults to appreciate the holiday. “It is not celebrated or talked about like Passover and Sukkot.  It does not have ‘fun’ elements like a sukkah or a seder.  It falls at the end of the school year and is frequently not taught at all. But it does have great moral and ethical significance for the Jewish people and is, in my opinion, worthy of a great deal more respect that it is generally given.”

I Am Standing at Mount Sinai is available at Amazon for $20. 

Sun, April 11 2021 29 Nisan 5781