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The Secret of the Sabbath Fish by Ben Aronin

The Secret of the Sabbath Fish (1978)

by Ben Aronin

Other authors: Shay Rieger (Illustrator)

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Tante Mashe, a poor but generous widow who lives in Barisev two hundred years ago, buys a wonderful fish from a stranger who tells her to prepare the fish while "think[ing] what has been happening to the Jewish people." She thinks of the recent pogroms as she crushes the fish and adds onions for tears. When finished, the delicious aroma draws all the poor people of the village and she shares this new Sabbath food, which she names gefilte fish because "it is filled with the history of our people." Finally, as she shares her story, she explains that the mysterious fisherman who sold her the fish for only two kopeks was the Prophet Elijah.

The story is well-told and earnest, but I wonder how children will react to this lachrymose approach to Jewish history.
  raizel | Jan 8, 2015 |
This book shares a folk tale about the how the first gefilte fish was ever made. According to this legend poor woman prepared it after prophet Elijah, in the guise of a fisherman, gave her a splendid fish and instructions: "Don't fry it, Matushka. And don't bake it. But as you prepare it, think about what has been happening to the Jewish people". The story teaches three simple lessons:
  • Even if you are poor there are always poorer people who you can help.
  • The importance of being joyous and sharing joy on Sabbath.
  • The history of the Jewish people included a lot of suffering, but they continued to exist.

The book pages are not numbered, but the story and the images take up 42 pages themselves. Every page. Where you open the book you will find a drawing which fills almost a whole page and in some cases both pages. The text for each double page varies between 3 and 12 lines. Therefore the book is great for 3rd and 4th graders. They may also be more receptive to Shay Rieger's elegant, black and white charcoal drawings than smaller children who might require more colors to hold their attention.

The advantage of folktales is that they are ageless. So even thought this book was published in 1978 it doesn't feel outdated, because it is missing any cultural references to the age it was prepared.
1 vote break | Nov 2, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ben Aroninprimary authorall editionscalculated
Rieger, ShayIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Tante Mashe lived in the little village of Barisev almost two hundred years ago.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0827601107, Hardcover)

Retells the Jewish folk tale of the origin of gefilte fish, prepared by a poor woman following her encounter with the prophet Elijah in the guise of a fisherman.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:35 -0400)

Retells the Jewish folk tale of the origin of gefilte fish, prepared by a poor woman following her encounter with the prophet Elijah in the guise of a fisherman.

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