Academy BJE, NSW Australia  

Read the story then click on the links below it to do the exercises.

                            JEWISH BOOKS



In small Jewish towns in Eastern Europe, where many of our grandparents or great-grandparents came from, people waited impatiently for spring to come.  When the snow melted and the muddy road dried, the bookseller trudged into town pulling his heavy cart.  Boys and girls, market women, Rabbis, Shoemakers – everyone came running to buy, or at least to look at, the new books.  The bookseller was such a welcome guest that a famous Jewish writer took the name Mendele Mocher Sefarim, which means ‘Mendele the Bookseller.’

A religious Jew was asked what he expected to find in heaven.  “Ah”, he smiled, “In heaven there must be a great big library where people can read and study forever and ever.”  People who find such ‘heavenly’ pleasure in reading surely deserve the name ‘People of the Book’.  Reading our holy books gives us more than pleasure.  It is gives us guidance for our daily lives.

The Jewish people have produced many famous writers who have written in many different languages.  Yitzchak Leib Peretz was one of the most popular Jewish writers of the past 100 years.  Peretz was a Polish Jew who loved to travel all over Poland to meet people and get ideas for his stories.  He wrote most of his stories in Yiddish. His books were bought by people all over the world and have been translated into many languages, including English.  Yitzchak Peretz died in 1915.

Here is a story by Yitzchak Leib Peretz, called "Maybe Even Higher".

Every year at Selichot time just before Rosh Hashanah, the Rabbi of Nemirov would disappear.  The townspeople did not worry.  They said, “Instead of praying in the synagogue our rabbi goes right up to heaven to talk to God.”

One Autumn a stranger arrived in town.  “To heaven?” he sneered when he heard the story.  “What nonsense!  Even Moses couldn’t get into heaven while he was alive.”  He decided to follow the rabbi and see where he really went.

On the evening of Selichot the stranger stole into the rabbi’s house and hid under his bed.  After a while the rabbi climbed into bed.  He tossed and turned and sighed.  The stranger began to worry.  Maybe the townspeople were right.  The rabbi might be praying and preparing to go up to heaven and argue for his people.  The stranger got goose bumps and began to shiver but he wouldn’t budge.

In the middle of the night the other townspeople got up and went to the synagogue for the special Selichot prayer.  But the rabbi and the stranger just tossed and turned, one on the bed and one under the bed.  Finally at dawn the rabbi got out of bed and put on work clothes and heavy boots.  He tucked an axe into his belt and went out.  The stranger tiptoed after him.

At a tumbledown little house the rabbi stopped and knocked on the door.

“Who’s there?” a weak voice asked.
“The woodcutter,” he answered, “I have wood to warm your house”.
“I’m poor and sick.  I have no money to pay you,” the voice answered.

The rabbi pushed open the door and carried in the wood.    The stranger peeked in after him and saw a small, dark room.  A woman lay on a bed in the corner.

“I’ll never be able to pay you,” she groaned.
“I trust you.  I believe that you will pay me back,”  said the rabbi.  “You must trust your God.  He is great and powerful and He will help you.”
“But I’m too sick to light the fire,” the woman sighed.
“I’ll light it for you,” said the rabbi.

As the rabbi put the wood into the stove he said the first part of his prayers.  As he started the fire he said the second part.  When the stove was hot he recited the third part of his prayers and shut the door.

After that morning the stranger became a follower of the Rabbi of Nemirov.  When the townspeople told how their rabbi went up to heaven before Rosh Hashanah the stranger would nod and say, “Maybe even higher.”


Choose one scene or character from the story "Maybe Even Higher" and illustrate it.  Then write a few lines about what you have drawn.
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Last updated  2009/08/18 10:24:49 AESTHits  798