You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.
Children’s stories from the ancient Jewish Talmud? For many years I’ve been asking, Why not? How is the 2,000-year-old tale of Rabbi Akiva and his beloved Rachel any less romantic than the 400-year-old fairytale of Sleeping Beauty and her Prince? How is an argument that causes a tree to jump out of the ground and a river to run backwards any less magical than a spell that turns Cinderella’s pumpkin into a stagecoach? With just a bit of retelling, the stories of the Talmud could turn into exciting literature for kids — and help them and the adults in their lives share rich discussions about life’s deep questions. Recently, when I was once again talking about this idea, my wife Susan rolled her eyes and said, “What are you waiting for? Write the book, already, so that we can read it to our grandchildren some day!” Good idea, Susie! And here it is: The Tree Jumped, the River Ran Backwards. The Talmud is the key repository of the laws, legends, stories, and philosophical insights that have shaped and informed Judaism. Most modern people, however, think of this religious literature as musty and obsolete, complicated and arcane — a literature for old men, certainly not for children. In fact, the Talmud is like handwritten version of the Internet, featuring freewheeling discussions of countless subjects, and filled with colorful tales. These include stories about the lives of the Talmudic teachers themselves, described with wonderful detail and insight. In The Tree Jumped, the River Ran Backwards, I have selected eighteen of these stories, lent them a fairytale aura and some very modern twists (women rabbis! no Deity!), and shaped them into what I hope folks will find to be a thoughtful, delightful children’s book. It will be available for shipping before Khanike. Advance orders are available now until November 15th for just $15. After November 15th, the price goes to $18. Shipping is free, and all the proceeds benefit Jewish Currents magazine.