Cover image for The day the Rabbi disappeared : Jewish holiday tales of magic
The day the Rabbi disappeared : Jewish holiday tales of magic
Schwartz, Howard, 1945-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 2000.
Physical Description:
80 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Retellings of twelve traditional tales from Jewish folklore featuring elements of magic and relating to holidays, including Rosh Hodesh, Sukkot, Tu bi-Shevat, and Shabbat.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 7.0 3.0 44717.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PZ8.1.S4 DAT 2000 Juvenile Current Holiday Item Holiday

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In this remarkable holiday collection, rabbis famous for their knowledge and special powers bring about miracles, reveal the secret meanings of dreams and names, and contend with angels and enchantments. Each of these tales from around the world combines elements of magic with a link to a Jewish holiday. These memorable stories, passed down orally for many generations, have been collected for the first time here, and are enriched by Monique Passicot's luminous illustrations.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 4^-7. Schwartz, the compiler of several story collections, has done a terrific job of bringing together these tales of Jewish mysticism and magic. It's not so much that the stories are engaging and readable (though they are); rather, it's that Schwartz goes beyond mere compiling. He gives young readers an understanding of Jewish mysticism that alerts them to the fact that even though rabbis in the tales function as sorcerers, they know their power comes only from God. The rabbis' aim is not to do magic tricks but to protect and preserve the Jewish people: "What occurs in these stories is not so much magic as miracles of God." Each tale is tied to a holiday, and here the text also excels by providing inviting notes that explain the holiday, the story's origin, and other pertinent points of the tale. Among the offerings are the story of a boy who draws beautiful ships and whose father, a rabbi, can manifest a ship when they must escape the Inquisition; the tale of a rabbi's daughter, who, through a dream visit, gains understanding of the Jewish book of mysticism, the Zohar; and a thought-provoking story about a man whose search for justice ends with himself. Chagall-like pencil drawings, contributed by Monique Passicot, highlight the text. Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

Noted storyteller Schwartz (Next Year in Jerusalem) outdoes himself in this expertly presented and well-conceived collection. Each of the dozen tales takes place during a different Jewish holiday, from Rosh Hashanah and Lag ba-Omer to the major festivals (Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot) and the Sabbath, and each reveals different facets of Jewish history and culture. To an already rich mixture, Schwartz brings extra luster with an element virtually guaranteed to hook young readers: magic. In an Afghan tale for Yom Kippur, a man stumbles upon a cottage filled with blazing oil candles, each representing a person's soul and its presence in the world. Some have plenty of oil, some are nearly emptyDthe man's own candle seems about to burn out and, since the keeper of the candles is not looking, what if he takes some oil from another candle? The supplementary material included with each story proves nearly as gripping. For that Yom Kippur story, for example, Schwartz follows up with a concise description of the holiday and succinct discussions of the story's specific biblical roots, the possible identity of the keeper of the candles, the theme of divine tests (e.g., the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden) and the Jewish idea of justice. Debut illustrator Passicot contributes dreamlike compositions in black and white. The play between light and dark in her subtle shading beautifully expresses the tales' mystical dimensions. Ages 8-up. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6 Up-A dozen folktales of Jewish mysticism-each of them about a noted rabbi who, with God's help, causes a miracle to occur. The stories span the ages (5th-century Babylonia to 19th-century Eastern Europe) and include tales from European and Middle Eastern countries and northern Africa. The Kabbalists told stories of rabbis going on heavenly journeys in order to study mystical secrets. They spoke of dreams in which God communicated with special people in order to protect or save the Jews in times of great danger, and of certain rabbis who, by invoking God's true name, gained the power to perform miracles to help their people in times of crisis. Schwartz has chosen each story for its link to a specific holiday. Just as the stories are steeped in Jewish mystical tradition, the author's notes on each one rely heavily on readers having some knowledge of Judaic holiday customs and ceremonies in order to avoid confusion. It is said that no one should study Kabbalah before reaching the age of 40. One needs to acquire a basic knowledge of Jewish beliefs and practices before delving into the mystical side of the religion. This collection is most appropriate for use in religious or secular schools where discussion led by a knowledgeable teacher can add clarity and depth to the tales.-Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 6
A Flock of Angels: A Rosh Hodesh Talep. 9
Drawing the Wind: A Rosh Hashanah Talep. 15
The Cottage of Candles: A Yom Kippur Talep. 22
Four Who Entered Paradise: A Sukkot Talep. 28
The Flying Shoe: A Simhat Torah Talep. 33
The Enchanted Menorah: A Hanukkah Talep. 38
The Souls of Trees: A Tu bi-Shevat Talep. 42
The Angel of Dreams: A Purim Talep. 49
The Magic Wine Cup: A Passover Talep. 54
The Dream of the Rabbi's Daughter: A Lag ba-Omer Talep. 60
A Gift for Jerusalem: A Shavuot Talep. 66
The Day the Rabbi Disappeared: A Sabbath Talep. 73
Glossaryp. 78
Sourcesp. 80