Page 11 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

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H E A R T B E A T S OF B O O K S
B
y
A . A
la n
S
t e in b a c h
T
HE earliest impact of a book upon a child of tender age
has been portrayed by Jessie E. Sampter in “The First
Lesson” :
When first, a little boy of three,
I stood beside the Rabbi’s knee;
He gave me cake to make me see
The sweetness of the Holy Book.
“More sweet than honeycomb,” he said,
“When once the word of God you’ve read,
You’ll gladly live on crusts of bread
Tha t you may know the Holy Book.”
This “first lesson” has passed into desuetude, certainly here
in America. Regrettably, so has the second lesson—a father lead­
ing his son to
heder
for the first time.
The father takes his son’s little hand and says, “Come, my
child, let us go to the
heder
where you will learn how to become
a good Jew.” Before they depart, the mother places a
talit
around the child’s shoulders and whispers with a smile, “Wear
this holy garment, my sweet one, and take good care of it
always.” She kisses her child and her husband, and they are
on their way.
Arriving at the teacher’s home, the father places his son on
the teacher’s lap and the educative process begins. A tablet is
brought and the
aleph bet
is written on it. Pointing to each
letter, the teacher reads the
aleph bet
in its regular order and
nods as the child repeats after him. The same procedure is
enacted with the alphabet reversed. What a wonderful psycho­
logical pattern! Very early in his life the child’s eyes, ears and
mouth comprise a syndrome that introduces him to the sacred
Hebrew letters.
But this is not all. Honey is brought and is poured over the
letters on the tablet. The child licks the sweet honey on the
letters so that thenceforward he will be conditioned to think
of them with a “sweet taste” in his mouth.
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