Jewish books make me sad

Guest post by Talia from Nerd With a Voice

Sometimes I wonder if English seforim ever go through an editor.

I was reading a book that shall remain nameless, but it was a concise compilation of short anecdotes and one-line summaries of lessons learned from them. One story in particular caught my attention.

It described a man named Aaron Rawlston whose arm was pinned by a boulder while hiking in the Colorado Rockies. After days without food or water, he cut off his arm with a dull knife, climbed up out of where he’d been trapped, and drove himself to a hospital.

If any of that sounds familiar, it’s because this true story was the basis for the movie “127 Hours.”

Except the man’s name is ARON RALSTON, he was hiking in the BLUE JOHN CANYON in UTAH, he rappelled back DOWN the cliff which he’d climbed before the incident, and was airlifted to a hospital BY HELICOPTER.

I only saw the movie and read Aron Ralston’s autobiography, so I’m no expert. But a miniscule amount of research or fact-checking is all that would have been necessary to spot these obvious errors. Honestly, I’m surprised that it didn’t say he cut off his foot with a popsicle stick.

Seriously, did ANYONE proofread the thing?!

Aside from blatant ignorance, I find typos in Jewish books more often than I like to think about. Just a few days ago, my chavruta and I found an error in the footnotes of the book we were learning (the title of which will also remain undisclosed). It said “every” instead of “ever.” It sounds stupid, but such juvenile mistakes turn even the most sophisticated ideas into a joke. At least The 2011-2012 Yeshiva and Seminary Students’ Guide for this year acknowledges on the first page that “Any mistakes found in the guide are purely intentional and they are our way of keeping your attention.” Which is a good thing, too, because the candle lighting times on the next page are listed for 2010-2011.

A spelling mistake on a resume or college application is the equivalent of running a stop sign during a driving test – an automatic fail. The difference between “your” and “you’re” can mean the difference between respect and dismissal. So why are books containing words of Torah treated so carelessly?

Every sentence of the trashiest romance novel is picked through. The plot is examined for appropriate pacing and character development. Boring, cliche phrases are weeded out (yes, that was intentional) and replaced with colorful language that shows and doesn’t tell.

Why can’t we do the same with the books on which we base our views of the world, go to for inspiration and chizuk, and rely on for morphing deep concepts into digestible ideas?

Emunat chachamin is what holds our religion together. So much of what we do and believe is based on trusting in those who came before us, who have been around longer and are more attuned to the nuances of G-d’s will.

But if they can’t get their facts straight, or even use spell-check, we’re going to have a serious problem.

Go find some good Jewish books at