By R.M. Grossblatt
Aspiring authors are often told, “Write what you know.” What about aspiring teachers?
According to Hannah Fleshel, a preschool teacher at Congregation Beth Jacob, “Teach what you know.”
That was the advice Fleshel and her husband received from Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, zt”l, at Yeshiva Ner Israel in Baltimore. Morah Hannah, as her students call her, combined both messages, writing and teaching what she knows, to complete her first children’s book, “Sharing Mommy’s Love,” illustrated by Racheli Edelstein and published last spring by Israel Bookshop.
The book is distributed in America, Israel, Europe, Australia and Africa.
It covers the universal theme of what happens when a baby joins a family. Written in the first person by a toddler named Asher, the book starts with the words “One Shabbos my whole life changed.”
It changed because his parents left him at his aunt and uncle’s house while they went to the hospital for the birth of a baby who they told Asher would make him very happy. But he didn’t feel happy. He liked having just the three of them, and he especially liked their Friday night routine.
That routine is disrupted the next Friday night when his mother can’t read him a story because the baby keeps crying.
“Stop crying already, Baby,” Asher yells.
What happens next is that Asher’s mother gives the baby a pacifier, puts her arm around her son and focuses his attention on the extra light from the Shabbat candles.
Morah Hannah didn’t intend to become an author. She was inspired by an education course based on a book by Jane Nelson titled “Positive Discipline.”
“I loved the concepts,” she said, particularly using a lighted candle to help children accept a new sibling.
“I realized that I light candles every Friday night,” Fleshel said, and that the technique could be a valuable teaching tool for all Jewish children.
Fleshel, who was pregnant, planned to light a new Shabbat candle after she gave birth. So using what she knew, she wrote “Sharing Mommy’s Love” to teach that a new candle, like a new baby, never diminishes the others but adds more light and joy.
For women especially, Fleshel views Shabbat candles as a weekly reminder of a woman’s worth, along with the worth of each member of the family.
Fleshel also has more ideas for books to support parents and entertain children.
At the end of “Sharing Mommy’s Love,” Hannah Fleshel writes a warm letter to parents explaining the purpose of the book. She ends: “By connecting the concepts of Shabbos candles, love and light together, you are giving your child each week a visual reminder of his immense value within the family and the world.”
The wife of Rabbi Yaakov Fleshel of the Atlanta Scholars Kollel, Rebbetzin Fleshel also teaches college students to value themselves. Along with her husband, she hosts Shabbat and Yom Tov meals and inspires Jewish students at Emory University to explore their heritage.
Fleshel is a writer, teacher and devoted mother. She asked the publisher to wait until she gave birth to decide whether the baby in the story would be a girl or a boy. That enabled Fleshel to use the book to help her own children accept their new baby sister.
Sharing Mommy’s Love
By Hannah Fleshel
Illustrated by Racheli Edelstein
Israel Bookshop Publications, 24 pages, $10.95