The term midrash has a specific meaning and a broader one. Specifically, midrash refers to the post Talmudic body of writings (post-500 C.E.) such as Midrash Rabbah and Pirke de-Rabi Eliezer. In broader terms, midrash has come to mean a Jewish story that explains, clarifies, or elaborates on an event or passage in the Torah.
There are many stories in midrasnhic sources that are appropriate and valuable to retell for children. A retelling of the story "Solomon and the Demon King," for instance, can captivate a fifth grader today who plays computer games and rides a skateboard, just as much as it did a shtetl boy who walked barefoot to beder and learned to chant Talmudic passages at age four.
Rabbinic stories are not old and outdated, but alive and timeless. Within these stories, children can find heroic individuals just as brave and daring as the current ones who sport masks and capes and fancy weaponry-people like Rabbi Johanan ben Zaikai and Rabbi Akiva. But these rabbinic heroes provide something many of the television heroes do not-moral and ethical values as a basis for action.
Author Biography & Related Information
Barbara Diamond Goldin is a children's book author, as well as a teacher of writing and literature. Her first picture book, Just Enough Is Plenty: A Hanukkah Tale, received a National Jewish Book Award in 1989. Her other Jewish holiday books are The World's Birthday: A Rosh Hashanah Story, Cakes and Miracles: A Purim Tale, Night Lights: A Sukkot Story, The Magician's Visit: A Passover Tale, and The Passover Journey: A Seder Companion. It is for her work A Child's Book of Midrash: 52 Stories from the Sages (Jason Aronson, 1990) that she was invited to present this paper. Ms. Goldin received the AJL Sydney Taylor Book Award for Cakes and Miracles in 1992 (see acceptance letter in Judaica Librarianship, vol. 8 ).
Barbara, Diamond Goldin.
"Midrash in Jewish Children's Literature."
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