We are justifiably known as “the people of the book,” as baruch Hashem we love to read, especially to learn Torah. This means we also have a tendency to accumulate books. Lots of them. And unless we intend on maintaining a reference library or starting a lending library, after a while our shelves can become stocked with a number of books and sefarim (and not necessarily a small number) that in all likelihood we won’t open again. Even if we need to look something up, chances are it can be found in our local shul or beis midrash. So what should we do with all those wonderful books and sefarim that are taking up valuable shelf space?
Some of us have discovered that most bookshelves are deeper than the books themselves and have created two layers—the books up front that we figure will be accessed more frequently (or at least are more aesthetically pleasing) and a second layer behind them that leads to a “hunt and peck” session when we look for something we know we have somewhere. (A side advantage of double-layering is a lack of open space in front of the books, so no one can use the shelves for “temporary” storage, thereby eliminating extra clutter and pre-empting any muktzah items from blocking access to a sefer on Shabbos.) But this creates an additional problem; out of sight/out of mind. I hate to admit it (and will have some explaining to do when my wife reads this), but it has actually happened more than once that I bought a sefer I thought looked really interesting, only to discover that I thought it looked interesting the first time I saw it too, and it was already on my shelf hiding behind other sefarim. (I recently downloaded an android library app to start cataloging my sefarim; hopefully that will help me keep better track of what I already have!) What should I do with my doubles?
Another, similar issue arises as a result of the newer editions that have come out. Have you seen all of the new sets of Mikra’os Gedolos? Besides having to choose which of these “new and improved” models are worth buying, what will become of the trusty set we bought during our gap year(s) in Israel? And what about all those sefarim we owned before we got married that were also owned by our spouses? How many editions of Sefer HaChinuch are needed in one house?
Thank God for Jewish lending libraries, as who knows how many piles of Jewish novels and children’s books we would have if we had to buy everything. But even though it’s a much smaller pile, unless we are saving them for future grandchildren, do we really expect to read the same novels more than three times? Now what?
For a number of years, Congregation Tifereth Israel in Passaic ran a used book sale, where people could donate their used sefarim. Although it hasn’t occurred in a few years, with Hashem’s help it will occur again this year, with a number of new wrinkles. It is also being timed so that the collection of books and sefarim happens before Pesach (you’re welcome) with the sale itself a few weeks after Pesach.
The first new wrinkle is that a wonderful Facebook group was started by a Passaic resident, Rabbi Pesach Sommer, called “Buy, Sell or Swap Sefarim” (see https://www.jewishlinknj.com/community-news/bergen/29123-rabbi-pesach-sommer-invites-you-to-buy-sell-and-swap-seforim). There are currently over 3,200 members of this group, and the Tif (as Tifereth Israel is affectionately known) is partnering with Rabbi Sommer’s group for the event. Besides being able to swap seforim in person, it gives members a chance to meet up in real life too. A second new wrinkle is that in addition to the books collected by the Tif, there will be vendor tables as well. Some will be run by professional or semi-professional used-book sellers (one will be offering a 20% discount on any item from his online store, Amazon.com/shops/geniza, which he will bring with him to the sale thereby saving shipping costs as well. Contact me for further information), and others by those severely downsizing their personal libraries.
Another new wrinkle is that books collected by the Tif will be eligible for a small credit that can be used at the sale (albeit not at any of the vendor tables). The reasoning is simple: the goal of this event is not to raise money for the Tif (as worthwhile a cause as it is, though any proceeds will benefit the shul), but to help gently-used books find a new home. Issuing a credit will help facilitate this transfer.
There are three collection dates: Sunday April 7, from 9:30 a..m-12:30 p..m and Tuesday and Thursday, April 9 and 11, 7:30 p..m (i.e. after Mincha) till 8:30 p.m. Since I am overseeing the event, you can contact me to arrange a different time to bring your old books to the Tif so that we can try to find them a new home.
By Rabbi Dov Kramer
Rabbi Dov Kramer is a member of the Tif and of the BSSS Facebook group, and is proud to have made this shidduch. His email address is: RabbiDMK at gmail dot com.