Do You Want Your Children Reading His Books?

Dr. Seuss was unfaithful to his ailing wife. She killed herself when she found out, and he went on to marry the mistress. Would you invite such an individual to read your child a bedtime story?

By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

Recently, there was a major campaign to rid our homes of books by a certain author. “His lessons are good,” one parent told me, “but I can’t stand having his name in my house.” Another parent reasoned that when his kids grow up and hear about the things this author did, “they’ll ask me how I ever allowed them to read his books.”

Perhaps this is an eis ratzon to clean house altogether and take stock of who we let in.

In this week’s parsha Hashem tells the Yidden, “Draw forth or buy for yourselves sheep for your families and slaughter the Passover sacrifice.”

Why must they first “draw forth”?

Chazal explain that the Yidden had to first draw themselves away from the avodah zarah of Mitzrayim, and only then could they bring the korban Pesach.

The Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh writes something powerful [1]. The Yidden didn’t have actual avodah zarah in their possession. Rather, over time, just from living in Egyptian culture, they picked up the goyishe practices and habits. Some seemed as harmless as the type of food they ate and clothing they wore which, unbeknownst to them, were inspired by avodah zarah.

It was these nuanced influences that Hashem wanted them to get rid of.

The next step in elevating themselves was to slaughter sheep, the actual avodah zarah of Mitzrayim. By using it for something holy, they’d shake off any influence it may have still had on them.

Aside from the books mentioned above, can we think of other reading materials that have good information yet are authored by people we wouldn’t otherwise invite into our home?

Dr. Seuss was unfaithful to his ailing wife. She killed herself when she found out, and he went on to marry the mistress.

Would you invite such an individual to read your child a bedtime story?

Similarly, what will we answer our children when they ask us“You raised us based on so-and-so’s advice?” 

Not all secular books need to be trashed and not all Jewish authors should be accepted. The point is this: if we feel contempt for an author who’s morally despicable, shouldn’t we at least have similar apprehension for authors who aren’t spiritually up to par?

Moreover, if we were fooled by someone who gave the impression of being a yerei Shomayim, shouldn’t an author who clearly acts the opposite way raise our antennae? Shouldn’t an author’s blatant lack of middos or yiras  Shomayim trigger our sensitivities and scrutiny?

Let’s build on this experience and start asking ourselves: Am I bringing more than just a book into my home?

By this book sitting on my shelf, am I venerating someone undeserving? And, is it possible that, like in Mitzrayim, there are subliminal messages we’re internalizing through these materials? Messages that may feel pareve yet have an undesirable hold on us?

Another step we can take is to bring the world’s avodah zarah as a korban to Hashem.

By filtering our internet, our kindles, music, and podcasts, we disarm their hold on us. We can then go on to use these “sheep” for good and even holy purposes.

Just as when the Yidden drew themselves away from foreign influences and brought the sheep as a korban, they were protected from the death that befell the Mitzriim; Keeping our homes clean will, with Hashem’s help, keep us safe from dangers that surround us.

What better way to prepare for the ultimate exodus from galus, may it be now.

[1] 12:6

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Discussion
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  1. I never knew this about Dr. Suess.

    How do we know all Jewish authors are moral people? Do we assume they all are unless proven otherwise?

    how do we know which non jewish authors might be moral people?

    practically speaking, is there a list of non jewish books that are ok in content and with moral authors?

  2. If his stories are inspiring, teach Midos Tovos, and the contents are not apikursus, then why not just rip off or replace the book’s cover or just scratch out the author’s name?!

  3. I don’t think there’s much to be gained by striving to be literate in the well-rounded world of “frum” literature. The universal (multi-cultural) middos and mannerism values depicted by Hachai publishers and their modern authors are not comparable to the true chasidishe values instilled by, say, the Otzar Sipuray Chabad series. Their values are not the same.

    For example, whereas both teach to love your fellow (yid?) as yourself, only one of them includes even the yid who sinned.

    I can not understand where’s the good in today’s abundance of “refrum” literature. That kind of ahavas yisroel is not what the Baal Shem Tov taught. I therefore as a guide allow in only stories and lessons taught by the 9 Rebeiim, whose ahavas yisroel was deliberately extended to include balei avaira.

    One exception (so far), and to the practical side, I have also purchased the Machanayim collection (softcover) even though the Sipuray Tzadikim extend beyond the Baal Shem Tov’s ahavas yisroel but that’s because we are all in need of quality replacements for the default Youtube videos which captivate our little ones. Machanayim is a highly recommended replacement for the likes of Dr Suess, among all the other Doctors’ Self-focused books found in your traifeh Readers Digest.

  4. The Mezritcher Maggid writes in his sefer מגיד דבריו ליעקב – דף י’א “אל ילמד אדם בספר אדם רשע אפילו יש בו דברי תורה כראוי לפי שנשמתו נדבקת בנשמת אדם שעשה זה הספר”
    A jew shouldn’t read books from a wicked author because his soul cleaves to the author’s soul!

    Bilaam Harasha said about the Jews
    עם לבדד ישכון ובגוים לא יתחשב
    That we are a self sufficient people!
    We have our own values, holidays, music etc… Boruch Hashem we have a tremendous wealth today of the best educational books from acceptable and exceptional authors in our own Jewish bookstores and lending libraries that we don’t need any non jewish or irreligious books to infiltrate our kids’ pure minds with any improper subliminal messages of any sort.

  5. The alter rebbe brings in perek yud daled אין טוב אלא תורה.

    The wealth of exceptional Jewish-authored books which teach good behavior are taken from the good values found in the literature of psychology, which is not Torah nor nessesarily Jewish.

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