By Aytan Waxman, Staff Writer
“Compassionate before and after you sin, mighty, merciful, and gracious, slow to anger with much kindness and truth. Kindness to so many, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and pardoning.”
These are the Thirteen Attributes of God that we are probably familiar with by this time of year during our teshuva process. But there is another attribute which God manifests and I find fitting to remind everyone about.
The Talmud in tractate Avodah Zara (3b) examines how God spends His days. It goes through His daily schedule and we see that He spends three-fourths of His hours doing what we expect God to do. Our creator studies the Torah, judges the world, and sits and sustains everything in it. But that final quarter of his busy work life is rounded out with something interesting, something fun. During that lost slot, that last period, God prioritizes making time to play around with His pet Leviathan. King David is even quoted saying that the monstrous, ginormous whale was only created for fun and play (Tehillim 104:26).
The summer in many ways is like being a little kid. We have few responsibilities and lots of time to play around or goof off. There is no author who taps into that goofiness and expresses a childlike mentality better than Theodore Seuss Geisel, better known by his alter ego and pseudonym, Dr. Seuss.
Known for his witty rhymes, catchy fake words, and whimsical illustrations, Dr. Seuss’s oeuvre includes many of the most popular children’s books of all time. Each one not only sports a great anapestic tetrameter but many valuable themes and lessons as well.
If you have feet, then the Doctor’s The Foot Book is a great place to acquaint yourself with his mastery. Throughout the story, various types of feet are showcased. “In the house and on the street, how many many feet you meet” (Seuss, 18-19). The many different pairs of feet can be appreciated as an allegory for the diverse world we live in. They can also symbolize the vastness and variety of the world. The book inspires kids to explore and be curious about the world around them. A message I personally appreciate from the story relates to feet being fundamental to movement; every journey starts with a single step forward. Dr. Seuss encourages and empowers us to take that step, no matter what type of feet we have.
The next step (get it?) on your Dr. Seuss journey should definitely be the iconic 1974 tale, There’s a Wocket in My Pocket! in which the protagonist describes the different friends and foes he finds in his house. With a myriad of creatures found in all kinds of nooks and crannies, the protagonist realizes that “Some are friendly. Some are not” (Seuss, 11). Though he enjoys the company of some creatures and is intimidated by that of others, he finishes the story by proclaiming that there’s no house he’d rather live in, as this is his house. Seuss teaches readers that no matter what surrounds them, there is always something to take in and appreciate as part of their life.
Our final stop on the Seuss train is my all-time favorite, Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!. The work is a wildly silly and playful celebration of imagination and creativity. Instead of the traditional linear storyline, this book jumps from topic to topic like an unfocused train of thought (not unlike a Gemara sugya). Starting with some pretty standard stuff, readers make their way through fantastical, magical ideas. The bizarre and unconventional contemplation, reminds us of the limitless nature of our minds and begs us to be inquisitive and outlandish.
The start of the school year can be tough. Summer has beautiful weather, great vibes, and relaxing days. Then, school comes along and muddies that lifestyle up. Suddenly we have tests, deadlines, and less freedom to make wild changes to our plans at the line of scrimmage. That is when we need to read and appreciate these Seuss stories the most. They help us tap into childlike bliss, which can be pivotal during an intense academic year.
I’ll finish with a Seuss-style Poem as we head into Rosh Hashana and the new year.
In the heart of the Heights, there is a special place
A unique place of learning that bends time and space
With Torah and Maddah, Roshei Yeshiva on each floor
It could be you who serves as the next Gadol Hador
Elite basketball team that we call the “Macs”
And a leadership program named after Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Take notes in your classes and don’t take them lightly
But either way know your future shines brightly
It’s a special time of year inspiring us to repent
The King is in the Field, no longer in His tent
As long as we remember to match the Middos of Hashem
My bracha and tefillah is to start this new school year with no mayhem!