Even Higher: A Rosh Hashanah Story adapted by Eric Kimmel and illustrated by Jill Weber is a wonderful story to read aloud to children about a Rabbi who is thought to go “even higher” just before Rosh Hashanah.
Every year just before Rosh Hashanah Rabbi Nemirov disappears. He’s not at home, or in the synagogue or in the village of Nemirov. The villages believe he’s gone to heaven to beg G-d for forgiveness of their souls. But is this where Rabbi Nemirov really goes?
A skeptical, but pious man-a Litvak comes to town and tells the villages they are wrong in their thinking. He uses the writings of ten Rabbis to back up his conclusion. However days before Rosh Hashanah the Litvak follows Rabbi Nemirov and what he finds makes him believe and declare that Rabbi Nemirov might go “even higher.”
What makes something a custom? Why do we do the things we do? Over time, as things change are we to change too or do we hold fast to the past?
The book When the Chickens Went on Strike: a Rosh Hashanah Tale adapted from a story by Sholom Aleichem by Erica Silverman and illustrated by Matthew Trueman asks and deals with these very questions in a manner accessible to children.
This story takes place in a Russian-Jewish village, many years ago so many in fact that most if not all of us were never around to witness to take part in Karpores (the Jewish tradition of holding a clucking chicken above the head of a person and saying a prayer to rid the person of his or her bad deeds. The little boy in this tale wants to behave very badly to make his papa proud, but he also wants to make his sister, who, I have to point out has to sit in the women’s section of the Shul, laugh. The boy’s father tells him to go outside because he causes such a disturbance. Outside the boy sees the chickens clucking. “Strike! Strike!” the chickens declare.
At first the boy is taken aback because he too, like the other villagers, believes in Karpores. He’s afraid there is no other way to get rid of his “bad deeds.” But perhaps there is after all as the story tells us: “Customs come and customs go.”
Tashlich is another Jewish custom of Rosh Hashanah, but unlike the custom of Karpores, Tashlick is still practiced by some Jewish people today. Tashlich is a Jewish custom of going to a body of water during Rosh Hashanah and tossing pieces of bread, which symbolize mistakes of the past year, into the water.
Tashlich at Turtle Rock by Susan Schnur and Anna Schur-Fishman and illustrated by Alex Steele-Morgan is a great way to look at or start your own family or friend customs or traditions during Rosh Hashanah.
Annie, Lincoln along with their mom and dad are off to do Tashlich. This year Annie is in charge of coming up with the family’s route. Annie chooses to stop at Turtle Rock first and to have the family write one good thing from the past year on the rock with the rock. After the family does this, dad washes their words away with water. Next they stop at Billy Goat’s Bridge and toss a piece of nature that represents something they want to throw away or ‘cast off’ from the past year. Annie chooses to stop at Gypsy Landing thirdly where each member of the family makes a promise for the New Year. Finally the family walks together to Old Log where they enjoy some yummy apples and honey.
So what are your families and friends traditions leading up to Rosh Hashanah and during the High Holidays?
Reviews are by Tamara Levine, who works in a children’s library and is active in our online community at OneShul.org.