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Et tu, Brute? – Repetitions of History

“For Brutus is an honourable man; So are they all, all honourable men.” (Quote Act III, Sc. II)

While reading Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar with my mother this past Shabbat, I realize that somewhere our society went in the wrong direction. Instead of spending time reading together, laughing together, we spend time quietly, each on our own gadget. Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies are still largely enjoyed, but his history plays present themes that are still discussed in modern times.

Looking at the commoners in Julius Caesar, watching them fawn over their leader, cheer for him, and idolize him, I see Americans fawning over their president. As the play progresses and Caesar is killed, the people are convinced that his ways were evil. Easily convinced one way or the other, confused into submission, never told the whole story. Doesn’t this sound familiar?


On the news we are only given part of the story, the most important bits are left out, we are lead to believe falsehoods, and support false ideals. We see pictures taken in Syria slapped with the title “Gaza.” Numbers from different sources do not match up. People are told conflicting reasons as to why things are happening, and who is at fault. Political leaders have to choose sides, making alliances. None of this is new.

Two thousand years ago, when Caesar was murdered by ‘friends’, no one knew whether or not this was the right thing to do. Were they saving a republic? Were they overcoming a tyrant? People picked sides not really knowing.

Pick up a Shakespeare play, rent a movie, or see it live. Do you see the same modern connections? The wording style may be different, but society is the same.

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A Tale of Two Cities – Let’s Remember

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

Many of us who have graduated from an orthodox Jewish high school have to supplement our classical reading a bit after the fact. The reason that a classic stays popular enough for us to want to read it for fun, is because there are immortal themes that any generation can relate to.

Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is a book that we all have heard of and many have read. As a typical Dickens book, it is longwinded and emotional. The story revolves around a cast of characters that are deeply affected by the French Revolution. As a historical fiction, it is easier to identify with, since we are not expected to know the historical background of Dickens.


The book portrays the revolution against aristocrats as a ruthless senseless movement. They did not care that the protagonist Charles Darnay is not a typical aristocrat. They did not care that he rejected the cruel ways of his uncle. It did not matter that he was a good man. They did not stop the tirade against him, even though he had a family who relied on him. Innocence did not matter.

The most moving part of the story is the unbelievable sacrifice of Sydney Carton, the man who allowed Darnay to run away to live his life in peace. He takes Darnay’s place in prison, and goes to the guillotine without once regretting his selfless act. We are reminded that people like Sydney Carton are the people who need to be remembered, the people who will never have children to carry on their name for them.

Think of a person who has sacrificed their life for another. Think of a person who went against senseless violence, or senseless hatred. Think of someone whose name should be remembered. Share the name with us so that we can remember them together.

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Silverstein: The Author and the Artist

“Tell me I’m clever,
Tell me I’m kind,
Tell me I’m talented,
Tell me I’m cute,
Tell me I’m sensitive,
Graceful and Wise
Tell me I’m perfect–
But tell me the TRUTH.” 

Sheldon Allan Silverstein, known as Shel Silverstein, was born in Chicago in 1932.  Apart from children’s books, he wrote a popular songs for performers like Johnny Cash, Dr. Hook, and Waylon Jennings. He passed away at his home in Florida on May 9, 1999, affecting many young readers, including myself.

Since his death more of his work has been published, including “Runny Babbit” and another poetry anthology Everything On It. Every time I see another of his books, it reminds me how dedicated he was to his art.

Silverstein illustrated his own stories and poems with his own quirky black and white drawings. His illustrations are in ink and the cartoon-like style appears as if a child drew it.

In the book Where the Sidewalk Ends, the illustrations really help explain the poem as well as make the poems even more humorous. Some of the poems refer to something, and without the illustration, the humor would be lost, such as in the poem Melinda Mae. Throughout the book the pictures add wit and emphasize on the absurdities of the text. Since the media is in ink and no color, the pictures are not overly stressed, placing most of the importance on the wording.

This is not so in The Giving Tree. Here, the drawings are more emphasized, not by adding color, but by taking up most of the pages in simple and evocative illustrations. In the beginning, the boy is young and the tree is full and healthy looking. The boy grows into a man while the tree deteriorates. If not for these pictures, the emotions would not be as strong at the end of the book.

One illustration in specific, touched me. It shows an old wrinkly man sitting on the stump of a tree with the initials of M.E. and T. that he carved so long ago. This picture accompanies the words “Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest. And the boy did.” The picture and words together wrench the readers’ heart out and leaves them with a bittersweet sadness.

This illustration is simple, and would not be necessarily considered a piece of art, but the reader can see and feel the love put into this story by looking at the picture.

I feel that although the pictures are not as beautiful as those in other books, the feeling that they emit are more raw and therefore more appropriate for this book. In general I love looking through all of Silverstein’s books and laughing, or crying. His books will be cherished forever, and the power of his illustration, always felt.

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Time Keeper

“Soon man will count all his days, and then smaller segments of the day, and then smaller still—until the counting consumes him, and the wonder of the world he has been given is lost.”

We scribble “dentist appointment, 4pm” on our calendars. We fit shopping into our busy schedules. Everything has time allotted in our days. Time. We need more time.

Mitch Albom tackles this theme in his newest book “The Time Keeper,” a short but inspiring novel that rewards Albom fans. This book tracks the life of a business man and the life of a teen girl full of angst. 

Some people want more time. They cry for it, go through surgery or painful procedures, just to have a few more months. Some are miserable and want the time to fly by so that work would end, and so that the week would zip by to the weekend. Some want to sacrifice their time and give up their lives.

We each choose how to spend each hour of our day and we show how important something is by allotting time for it. We show people how valuable they are by spending time with them, calling when we have a free moment, and stopping by on Shabbat afternoon.

“The Time Keeper” is an easy read, very relatable to people of all paths of life, and inspirational. This book is definitely worth your time.