Books have souls. The siddur seemed like nothing more than a dying bequest, an impulse of the moment. Certainly Shammai deserved it, after all the times he's listened patiently to the old man's complaints and criticisms? So when his daughter, the only one present when Mr. Enstein suffered his heart attack, was told to give the siddur to her father, Shammai accepted it as a reasonable token of appreciation. It was simply the shock, Shammai had thought, that had urged Mr. Enstein to at last express his gratitude. Books have souls. Mr. Enstein had little else to give. His house was a house full of books. From floor to ceiling, they had a palpable presence. At times, they almost seemed to guard Mr. Enstein, to give him vitality, even as he watched over them, preserved them, kept them alive. Indeed, for Mr. Enstein, everything seemed to revolve around his books, everything. And why not? Did not the sacred texts speak across the generations, binding them together, giving meaning to those who invested themselves in the holy words? Even Shammai, who was no scholar, felt the power of the books. Then Shammai found out just how much the siddur was worth, and not just financially. When two previously unknown nephews suddenly appeared, demanding the centerpiece of Mr. Ensteins collection, Shammai was plunged into a legal battle not only for possession of the siddur, but something just as precious, his self respect. One by one, his friends, his family and even the books themselves were turned against him as the courtroom drama unfolds. As he saw them all used as witnesses to destroy him, Shammai realized he needed, a silent witness.
by David Kaufmann
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