Celebrate: A Book of Jewish Holidays
By Judith Gross, illustrated by Bari Weissman
The two most important days in the Jewish calendar come close upon one another this September with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year just passed, having begun on the evening of Sunday the 16th and ended on Tuesday the 18th.
Yom Kippur follows exactly eight days after Rosh Hashanah and for families interested in sharing the history surrounding these two most significant holidays in the Jewish faith, Celebrate is a perfect introductory book. It explains in very simple language for the youngest readers, not only these two holidays, but additional stories behind the holidays such as Sukkot, celebrated at harvest time, where families build booths open to the sky, decorated with leaves, vegetables, paper chains and the like, evocative of the quickly built shelters the earliest wanderers had to build up and take down.
Simhat Torah, Hanukkah, Tu Bishvat, Purim, Passover and Shavuot also are presented with the history of each explained in detail with emphasis on the children’s involvement in the holiday.
Each child in the family will have their favorite holiday celebrating the traditions and ancient history of this religion so rich in family centeredness.
I loved the celebration of Shavuot and the special laws of living together peacefully, retelling the story from the Torah of God or sacred book of the Jewish people, the giving to Moses of the Ten Commandments or ten laws for living a good life. Coming in late spring, adults may stay up late on this night and study the Torah. Children, if they are allowed, stay up too. There is a legend surrounding this night that is simple and beautiful. The legend states that at midnight the heavens open for a single second and if you make a wish at that moment it will come true. What a beautiful tradition if the wishes of all the children of the world could be joined in one night!
Each of the holidays in this book, with simple, richly colored illustrations and its emphasis on family life, adds to the understanding of each holiday as it is celebrated once during the year.
The one holiday that does not and comes once a week is Shabbat or Sabbath. In the Torah, God created the world in six days and on the seventh day he rested. And so rest is part of the tradition of Shabbat. It is special and peaceful beginning on Friday at sundown. Braided loaves of bread called challah are put on the dinner table together with sweet wine. The mother welcomes the Sabbath with a blessing and the lighting of two candles and everyone says the words, “Shabbat Shalom” or Good Sabbath.
Celebrate is a great introductory book, not only for young people of the Jewish faith, but for any young reader and family interested in learning more of the traditions and holidays surrounding one of the great ancient religions of the world.
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