Cheshvan 5774/October 2013
Preview of Chanukah Releases
The High Holiday season has just passed, and many of us are already looking forward to the next Yom Tov, Chanukah, nearly two months away. However, we publishers have already been looking toward the future for a long time, preparing our upcoming releases. In fact, my major focus now is not on Chanukah releases but on pre-Purim releases!
I want to take this opportunity to share a little about two of my upcoming new titles. Every book we publish is distinct, but these two are especially so, as I will explain.
Let’s Stay Pure is not your ordinary children’s illustrated book. The concept and story are the brainchild of Bracha Goetz, one of the most popular authors of frum children’s books alive, who happens to be a very pure soul herself.
In her previous book entitled Let’s Stay Safe (ArtScroll/Mesorah), she made a significant impact on our society by educating youngsters about physical safety in its many facets, and her book was a best seller.
In this book Mrs. Goetz continues where she left off by teaching young children about spiritual safety, namely protecting their pure neshamos. She succeeds in conveying a very positive message, encouraging kids to nurture their souls by behaving properly and doing mitzvos, while avoiding the opposite behaviors. Using simple language combined with beautiful and compelling illustrations (the handiwork of the highly talented Sara Fogel), she manages to convey lofty concepts on a level that even toddlers can understand.
Sounds unreal? Can children really appreciate concepts of neshamos and purity? Can we? Let me explain with a true anecdote about one of our Gedolim from the prewar era.
Rav Elchonon Wasserman, zt”l, was the rosh yeshivah of the famous yeshivah in Baranovitch, Lithuania, and one of the gedolei hador. Once, on a fund-raising trip to England in the 1930s, he stayed at the home of one of the young, local rabbanim. This rav had a young son—he was about three years old at the time—whom he wished to introduce to Reb Elchonon. When the little boy met the great rosh yeshivah he immediately broke out in laughter, much to the chagrin of his parents. Reb Elchonon surveyed the situation and reassured the parents that there was nothing wrong with the child’s behavior and therefore no need to reprimand him. This was his reasoning:
The streets back in Baranovitch were unpaved dirt roads, and when it rained, they became muddy, making it very difficult to even walk on them. In order to cope with this serious inconvenience, Reb Elchonon wore high-laced boots over the legs of his pants. Since these were his solitary pair of shoes (he couldn’t afford another pair), he wore them even when he was fund-raising abroad. So, when the young boy saw him and his boots, he naturally burst out in a fit of laughter, as befits seeing such an unusual sight. Therefore, explained the sage, there wasn’t any reason for the boy’s parents to be upset; he was just acting like a normal boy should. Then Reb Elchonon concluded with the following insight:
What makes us different from this young boy? Why don’t we laugh if it’s such a natural response? The answer is because children are pure and natural, but adults aren’t. We are trained over the course of many years to act the “right” way, and eventually we end up losing our feeling for uninhibited behavior. But that doesn’t mean we don’t yearn for it. Deep down we all wish we could behave as purely and naturally as this cute little boy. In fact, Reb Elchonon added, that is the secret why adults find children so adorable—because deep down we cherish their innocence and purity of soul, wishing we could behave like them too.
That is why this book is relevant to all Jewish children, and adults too. It’s primarily us adults who have issues with connecting to our inherent purity, not our children. The kids swallow it up whole, if we allow them the opportunity. Once we’re reading them Let’s Stay Pure, no one will ever know if we too are enjoying the revitalizing sensation of reconnecting to our slightly damaged neshamos.
In today’s day and age when impurity is so rampant and no one is immune from overexposure, it really is imperative that we strengthen our children—and ourselves—by focusing a little more on our real selves, our neshamos.
Now I’d like to share a thought about the other new, distinct title, Winners.
This book has a very different style from Let’s Stay Pure and represents a different dimension of Torah Temimah Publication’s philosophy on publishing.
Many people have dreamed of publishing an anthology of short stories written by teenage girls, but as of yet no one has ever done it (to the best of my knowledge). Chaya Sara Ben Shachar, a highly accomplished young author herself, approached me with the idea of doing this, and I agreed. Winners is the fruit of our joint labor. Together we conducted a worldwide writing contest for Jewish teenage girls, and we received entries from four continents. It was very difficult for us to choose who would be the “winners” and who not, but we narrowed the number until we were left with seventeen winning stories.
We originally offered the contestants suggestions of topics to write about, but ultimately, the girls chose their plots themselves and wrote their short stories in their own voices and styles. Our editorial department was careful that the winning content should be appropriate from a Torah perspective; we didn’t dictate what messages the authors are allowed to portray and how they should do it, nor did we edit them in a way that would lose their original style.
I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to offer these budding authors their first chance to be published in the major Jewish book market. We all need someone to open the door for us in life, and the publishing industry is no different. Having one’s work published is very difficult nowadays, as I wrote about in Newsletter #5. If no one is willing to assist them, the next generation of good authors will never sprout. Therefore, I was particularly eager to be the one to do it for these young ladies, and I wish every one of them much success in their future writing careers, if they choose to go in that direction.
Another special feature of Winners is that it comes from girls with a wide variety of backgrounds, not just locations. Torah Temimah doesn’t believe that this should have an impact at all on publishing. On the contrary, we are proud to encourage the unification of all members of K’lal Yisrael as one People, at least on the pages of this book.
So, please take a look at the sample pages of our new titles on our website. I think you’ll be happy with what you see.
Wishing you a healthy winter,
Rabbi Eliyahu Miller
Publisher and General Editor