Monday, June 25, 2018

Under the Sabbath Lamp Paperback – January 1, 2017 by Michael Herman (Author), Alida Massari (Illustrator) (Kar-Ben Publishing)

Izzy and Olivia Bloom walked leisurely down the quaint street of their new neighborhood. They smiled and waved at all their new neighbors, neighbors that were very happy to welcome them into their hearts and homes. Every Friday “they were invited to a different family’s home—the Silvermans or the Aplebaums, to the Kaplans or the Coopers.” Just before sundown they would arrive, bringing their homemade gifts. Mmmmm! There were those “tangy tart lemon bars” and “cherry cordial.” The Shabbat candles were lit, a blessing was said, and then “everyone ate the festive meal and sang Shabbat songs.”

Ah, it was so much fun to celebrate with the neighbors, so why not invite them to their home instead? Yes, “Izzy and Olivia decided to invite their new friends for Shabbat dinner” and began to prepare. Cooking, cleaning, baking, and, of course Izzy “mixed a new batch of cherry cordial.” The guests began to arrive, but little Sadie’s eyes grew wide when she noticed that something was wrong. “Where are your Shabbat candles?” she asked. There just had to be candles or the Shabbat couldn’t begin! Everyone was shocked when Olivia exclaimed, “We don’t light Shabbat candles.” What, no candles!

All eyes went up to the ceiling where there “was a shiny brass chandelier,” a chandelier “shaped like a star.” There were no lightbulbs, but instead it was a most unusual oil lamp with wicks! It’s “our Sabbath lamp,” Izzy told his amazed neighbors as they watched him ratchet it toward the table so Olivia could fill and light it. Everyone gathered ‘round the table to share their Shabbat meal and listen in amazement to the story of their Sabbath lamp. It all began with Izzy’s great-great-grandfather, who “lived in a small village in Germany” many, many years ago.

Long ago no one lit candles for Shabbat, but rather everyone had Sabbath lamps. Grandfather Isaac was an itinerant livestock seller and on “one of his trips, Isaac made a trade with a peddler—Isaac’s plump chickens for a shiny brass lamp.” Life was good, but when Isaac was tied up by thieves, who made off with his chickens, it was time to leave for America. Isaac would go first, but would call for his family later. His wife, Rachel, “handed him the drip pan from the Sabbath lamp.” The family was split up as was the lamp. Would they eventually be reunited? What would happen to that shiny brass lamp they so treasured?

This is a wonderfully charming tale about an old-fashioned Jewish tradition readers of all ages will love. Many people, including myself, were not aware of the fact that instead of Shabbat candles, special hanging oil lamps were once used. The tale is fun, fascinating, and quite interesting because of its historical significance. The Blooms are carrying on their family tradition with an old Sabbath lamp, a cherished family heirloom. I loved Izzy’s story of how the family and the lamp came over from Germany. In the back of the book the author has a brief note about the Sabbath lamp and information about both the author and illustration. A wonderful tale that is a perfect one to share during the Shabbat meal, or any time for that matter!

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