Jewish mother explores spirituality in new children's book

What is a soul? Where does it go when you are asleep? How does a parent answer these spiritually profound questions that a child may ask?

Heidi Mae Bratt , | updated: 21:30

Kings Secret Mission 1
Kings Secret Mission 1
Kings Secret Mission

As published in About Our Children, the parenting magazine of The Jewish Standard. Reprinted with permission.

What is a soul? Where does it go when you are asleep? How and why does it come back in the morning? What of its acknowledgement when it returns? Why is that important? And lastly, how does a parent answer these spiritually profound questions that a child may ask.

Shiri Sher, a Fair Lawn mother of five, 20-year-educator, and children’s book author, addresses these questions in her beautifully illustrated new, self-published children’s book, “The King’s Secret Mission: The Story of Modeh Ani.”

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Mrs. Sher, who was an early childhood educator and is a current board member of the Academies@GBDS in Oakland where her four youngest attend school, confronted these confounding questions with her own children.

It prompted her to create the tale of “The King’s Secret Mission":

The Story of Modeh Ani.” In the book, the reader meets the protagonist, BIM (which stands for Best In Me), a soul that gets outfitted with a body and is sent to Earth to the town of Me, Me, Me by the King to fulfill a mission and learn about its purpose. This lovely parable grapples with esoteric issues in Jewish spirituality that Mrs. Sher said she hadn’t found in other books. Therefore, she decided to create a book that did address these matters. The book’s colorful and ethereal illustrations are done by her mother, Geula Vardi, an artist.

“My own kids were asking these questions,” said Mrs. Sher, whose family includes, Elichai, 15, Shalom, 13, Keren, 11, Aliya, 6, and Azarya, 5. Her husband is Oded Sher.

“I really wanted the book to be a tool for parents to address these concepts of spirituality,” she said.

In the book, she also includes and explains the morning prayer, “Modeh Ani,” one of the first prayers many Jewish children are taught to say as soon as they awake. It expresses gratitude for the gift of a new day of life and for the trust it takes to return that gift of life.

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Mrs. Sher presented her book to the early childhood department at the Academies@GBDS. There was also a community-wide book launch where Mrs. Sher did a reading and book signing.

Lina Shuster, the executive director of the Academies@GBDS, said the Modeh Ani event for the book furthers the school’s agenda to spread positivity and teach youngsters the important lesson of gratitude.

“Kids can wake up grumpy,” said Mrs. Shuster. “But Modeh Ani is such a positive thing to say. You are teaching gratitude to a child from the very first moment that they wake up.”

Heidi Mae Bratt was the editor of About Our Children, the parenting monthly of The Jewish Standard.

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