Archive for the ‘Passover’ Category
We are entering the Jewish month of Nissan, the month during which Jews and their families all over the world celebrate the holiday of Passover. At a special meal, the Seder, using a special book, the Haggadah, we retell the story of the Israelites’ miraculous escape from slavery to the Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh and recount their wandering in the desert as a free people. During the Seder, we are reminded that we must see ourselves as if we, each of us, personally went out of Egypt. As if we, each of us, personally were a slave and now we are free. As if we, each of us, personally, had been redeemed by the Holy One.
What I think about each Passover – OK, after the Seder invitations are out, the plague bags are decided upon and the menu is finalized…What I think about as I am putting together our Haggadah, is the amount of courage it must have required for the Ancient Israelites to pack up their families, what few possessions they had and to leave it all behind, for something they could not see or touch-freedom. And though we read several times in the Torah, that the people complained and may have wanted to go back, they never did. Freedom once tried cannot easily be returned.
This month’s book list honors the courage shown by our ancestors as they travelled out of their slavery and into freedom by providing a taste of that courage through the reading experience.
Sheila Rae, the Brave. Written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow Books, © 1987. Everyone knows that Sheila Rae is very, very brave. She giggles when the principal walks by, steps on sidewalk cracks, and rides her bike with no hands. One day, however, after deciding to take a different path home from school, she loses her way. Suddenly, she is not as brave as she thinks. Fortunately, she receives help from a very special source. Ages 4-8.
The Empty Pot. Written and illustrated by Demi. Henry Holt and Company, © 1990. The Emperor of China is growing old and must chose a successor. He decides to give all the children in China a seed from his garden and tells them to grow it. Ping loves to grow plants, but no matter what he does, his seed does not grow. When all the other children bring pots full of beautiful flowers to share with the Emperor, will Ping have the courage to share his empty pot? Ages 4-8.
Nachshon Who Was Afraid to Swim. By Deborah Bodin Cohen. Illustrated by Jago. Kar-Ben Publishing, © 2009. Nachshon is a slave to the Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh. He is very brave, avoiding the Pharaoh’s taskmasters and spying for his people, until he is invited to swim in the water. Then he steps back. Nachshon is frightened by the water. When the slaves are freed from Pharaoh’s slavery and they find themselves at the Red Sea, however, someone must be the first to step in or the waters will not open. Who will have the courage to enter the sea first? Ages 5-9.
Mirette on the High Wire Written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, © 1992. Winner of the Caldecott Medal. Mirette’s mother runs a boarding house for performers visiting Paris. One day, Mirette meets a very talented man who is practicing walking the tightrope in her backyard. He dismisses her requests to learn this skill. Nevertheless, she begins to teach herself. Seeing that she has talent, and determination, he begins her training. Mirette learns however, that he will not take her on the road with him, because he is very afraid after suffering an accident. Can she help him find the courage to return to show business? Ages 5-10.
Call It Courage. Written and illustrated by Armstrong Sperry. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, © 1940. Winner of the Newbery Award. Mafutu is the son of the great chief of a Polynesian clan that worships the sea and courage. However, he is afraid of the water because when he was a young child the sea took his mother’s life and almost his own. In this classic story, Mafutu becomes a legend when he decides to overcome his fear and take on the challenges of the sea. Ages 8-12.
Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword. Written and illustrated by Barry Deutsch. Amulet Books, © 2011. Winner of the Sydney Taylor Award for Older Readers. Mirka, an 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl, wants to fight dragons. In order to do that, she must find a sword. No easy task in the Ultra-Orthodox community where she lives. However with the help of her wise stepmother, a talking pig, a wicked witch and an evil ogre, Mirka achieves her dream. Ages 10-14.
The Breadwinner. By Deborah Ellis. Groundwood Books, © 2000. Parvana and her family are living in a one room apartment in a bombed-out neighborhood in Kabul, Afghanistan. Her father has been arrested for having a college education and is in prison. The only way for her mother, three siblings and herself to survive is for her to dress as a boy and earn a living on the streets. However, the consequence if she is caught…she does not want to think about, she must simply find the courage to do what must be done to survive. Ages 11-14.
The Storyteller’s Beads. By Jane Kurtz. Harcourt Brace & Company, © 1998. Due to war, famine and drought, Sahay, a Christian orphan girl, must leave Ethiopia immediately. For religious reasons, Rahel, a blind, Jewish Ethiopian girl is also leaving the country. When these two girls’ paths cross, they must overcome deep animosities toward each other in order that they may both achieve their dreams: Freedom in another country. Ages 11-14.
Homeless Bird. By Gloria Whelan. HarperCollins Publishers, © 2000. A National Book Award Winner. Koly, a 13-year-old Indian girl, is forced to marry a sickly boy. This is her fate. When he dies, she becomes part of an Indian widows’ community. When her talent for embroidery is discovered by the community’s benefactor and a new young man begins to take interest in her, will she have the courage to change the path tradition and fate have handed her? Ages 13-16.
The Boy Who Dared: A Novel Based on the True Story of a Hitler Youth. By Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Scholastic Press, © 2008. Not every German believed the propaganda that was fed to them during World War II. Some individuals did what they could to deliver a different message to the people. This is the story of one such individual who gave up his life for the truth. Ages 14-18.
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These titles provide a broad understanding of the value of Ometz Lev/Courage. As you sit at your Seder, whether at home or elsewhere, listen carefully as the Haggadah is read. If you hear a story, a song or a prayer that sounds like it is describing a brave, daring or courageous moment, shout out, “Ometz Lev. Courage!” Of course, others at the Seder may stare at you. That’s OK. You can share what you learned and the book you read later, during dinner. If you are looking for additional information about Passover including a free downloadable Haggadah, visit JewishBoston.com.
Wishing you a Passover season filled with fabulous food, fun and frogs,
©2011 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were from my personal collection and from my local public library.
I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my web site and purchase it from Amazon,
I may receive a very small commission on your purchase.
You will incur no additional cost, however.
I appreciate your support.
Book Review | Afikomen Mambo
by Rabbi Joe Black
Illustrated by Linda Prater Score: 3.5 © 2011, Kar-Ben Publishing. Once again, Rabbi Joe Black allows one of his songs to come alive in the pages of a book (Boker Tov! Good Morning!) Just in time for Passover, our children will be dancing to a Latin rhythm as they get ready for the Seder and [...]
Book Review | The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah
by Leslie Kimmelman
Illustrated by Paul Meisel Score: 4.0 © 2010, Holiday House, Inc. This charming retelling of the classic Little Red Hen story, has Ms. Hen trying to prepare for her Passover Seder. First, she needs to make her matzah. Seeking help from her barnyard friends for the planting, harvesting, milling and baking of the matzah gets [...]
Book Review | A Tale of Two Seders
by Mindy Avra Portnoy
Illustrated by Valeria Cis © 2010, Kar-Ben Publishing. When parents get divorced and children are involved, there are always issues, not the least of which is where the children will spend the holidays. In this gentle and reassuring book, there are no arguments, no tugging or pulling. The details seem to have been worked out [...]
Today is Blog Action Day 2010. The theme is WATER.
I could write about so many things, but once again, the day is almost over and I find myself running out of time. Nevertheless, I have thought of little else this day except what I would write about when at last I got a moment to sit down at my computer.
The world’s environment is in such disarray. As humans we can live for much longer without food than we can without water. Every week, nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 die from the lack of unsafe drinking water. I thank the Holy One that I live in a community where drinking water is not only clean and safe, but it is plentiful. Yet, the question pounding in my head is – What would Miriam do?
According to our midrash, Miriam, the prophetess, was blessed to have a well of water that followed her wherever she traveled throughout the Israelite’s wanderings in the desert. All she had to do was say, “Spring up, o well!” and a well of clean fresh water would appear. Many people commemorate this miracle by having a special goblet – a Miriam’s Cup – on their Seder table during their Passover seder. There is a special prayer that accompanies the use of Miriam’s Cup:
Zot Kos Miryam, kos mayim chayim. Zeicher l’tzi-at Mitztrayim.
This is the Cup of Miriam, the cup of living waters. Let us remember the Exodus from Egypt. These are the living waters, God’s gift to Miriam, which gave new life to Israel as we struggled with ourselves in the wilderness.
Blessed are You God, Who brings us from the narrows into the wilderness, sustains us with endless possibilities, and enables us to reach a new place.
“Miriam’s Cup blessing” Copyright 1996 (Matia Rania Angelou, Janet Berkenfield, Stephanie Loo). Kol Ishah, PO Box 132, Wayland, MA, 01778
Tonight, as my family and I bless the Shabbat candles, say Kiddush over the grape juice and thank the Holy One for the bread that graces our table, we are also going to raise Miriam’s Cup and thank God for the water that we drink every day. We will pray that wells will spring up all over the world so that children will have as much clean water as they need when they need it.
Ken yehi ratzon – May it be God’s will.
2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved. I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my web site and purchase it from Amazon, I may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You will incur no additional cost, however.
I appreciate your support.