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In God's Hands

In God's Hands

by Lawrence Kushner, Gary Schmidt, Matthew J. Baek

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A Charming tale to remind us all that our kindness works miracles.

“When the sun sets and stars fill the sky, the square in the little town grows quiet and still. The cool air of distant hills mingles with the sweet scent of baking bread. The moon rises and glows softly.


A Charming tale to remind us all that our kindness works miracles.

“When the sun sets and stars fill the sky, the square in the little town grows quiet and still. The cool air of distant hills mingles with the sweet scent of baking bread. The moon rises and glows softly. It’s the sort of place where miracles could happen.”

David and Jacob live in the same little, ordinary town, but it’s almost as if they’re from different worlds. David is so poor he can barely feed his family. Jacob is so consumed with staying rich he thinks about nothing but money. But the two men have one thing in common: they both believe that miracles are big, magical things that can only happen somewhere else, to someone else.

But when Jacob wakes up from a nap in synagogue one day, sure that God has demanded twelve loaves of bread from him, all this changes in amazing ways you’d never expect.

A delightful, timeless legend based on Jewish tradition, In God’s Hands tells of the ordinary miracles that occur when we really, truly open our eyes to the world around us.

Editorial Reviews

Lori Smith
A retold Jewish folk tale that will also appeal to Catholic and Protestant readers, liberal and conservative…This simple story, with earth-tone illustrations by Matthew J. Baek, is a welcome antidote to the grand holiday tradition of accumulating material things. It will help small hearts understand that some families are in need and that we have the great privilege of serving them as "hands of God."
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
A miracle connects two very different men in this uplifting tale inspired by Jewish legend. Jacob, a rich man preoccupied with increasing his wealth, and David, a poor man worried about feeding his hungry family, unknowingly cross paths at the synagogue. One day at services, Jacob hears words from the Book of Leviticus--a command from God to bake loaves of challah--and takes the verse to heart. Jacob then leaves his offering of fresh-baked bread at the synagogue, where it is found by David and thought to be the tangible answer to his prayers. The same ritual repeats week after week until the rabbi unravels the mysterious bread exchange and encourages the men to keep it up, as their hands are extensions of God's hands, doing His work. Kushner (The Book of Miracles) and Schmidt's (Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy) narrative unwinds with a crisp rhythm. Baek's children's book debut features gently stylized paintings in dusty earth and jewel tones that exude a timeless feel appropriate for this accessible outing. Ages 5-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
The phrase "the hands of God" evokes images like the awe in the Sistine Chapel, but in the words of these authors, God's hands are quite down to earth. Almost a folktale, this is the story of two men whose lives are strangely intertwined in their small town. Jacob is a rich man who habitually sleeps through the synagogue services. David is a poor man who daily sweeps and dusts the synagogue to earn a meager living for his family. One day Jacob is startled awake by a message from God read by the rabbi from the book of Leviticus. "You shall bake twelve loaves of challah bread and set them before Me," Jacob hears God say to him. He obeys God, bakes the bread, takes it to the synagogue and places it in the holy ark. David goes to the synagogue praying earnestly for food for his hungry children. He opens the ark, finds the bread and is overjoyed by God's answer to prayer. Week after week the scenario is repeated, each man convinced that God is at work in his life until one day the rabbi happens to witness the whole amazing thing. The story ends in a most satisfactory fashion. How wonderful to discover that God's hands are at the ends of our own arms. Baek's illustrations enhance the action of the tale and, by their details, open doors for non-Jewish readers teaching about the synagogue, its ark, Torah, lamp, and menorah. This is a book for all cultures and religious beliefs, and it is great fun as well. 2005, Jewish Lights Publishing, Ages 5 up.
—Mildred Hart
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-Jacob, a rich man, always falls asleep in synagogue, but one day he wakes up just in time to hear the words of Leviticus read: "`You shall bake twelve loaves of challah, and set them before Me in two rows, six in each row.'" He is certain that God is talking directly to him, so he hurries home and quickly bakes 12 loaves of bread. He brings them to the synagogue and places them in the Holy Ark. David, the poor caretaker, discovers the loaves and believes that they were sent from God to answer his prayers for food to feed his family. Over the years, "Jacob's giving and David's receiving" become routine. When the rabbi discovers the two men and reveals to them what has been happening, they both learn how their hands have become God's hand in creating a miracle. Based on a traditional folktale, Kushner and Schmidt's retelling is greatly enhanced by Baek's detailed illustrations in deep blues and earth colors. Similar to Aubrey Davis's Bagels from Benny (Kids Can, 2003), this version follows the original more closely and has a slightly more sophisticated message.-Rachel Kamin, Temple Israel Libraries & Media Center, West Bloomfield, MI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Wealthy Jacob is concerned with ways to make more money but routinely falls asleep during the Rabbi's weekly Sabbath service. Less fortunate David, the caretaker of the synagogue, worries each week about his empty cupboards and hungry children. During one service, Jacob awakens long enough to hear the Torah portion from the Book of Leviticus where God instructs Moses to bake 12 loaves and set them before him in equal rows of six, each Sabbath day. Thinking God has spoken to him alone, Jacob goes home, bakes 12 loaves of challah and returns to the synagogue placing the loaves within the holy ark. Later, as David cleans up, he prays before the ark for his starving family. Opening it, he finds the challahs and rejoices for his answered prayers. The routine continues for several years until the wise Rabbi catches both men in their respective rituals and explains their lives are connected by their actions, not by God's direction: "your hands are God's hands." As in the child-oriented Bagels from Benny by Aubrey Davis (2003), discussable themes of goodwill and kindness resonate throughout. The nearly full-page, folk-style, expressive paintings, compliment the sensitively told story. A worthy choice for all collections. (Picture book. 5-9)

Product Details

Turner Publishing Company
Publication date:
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Barnes & Noble
File size:
4 MB

Meet the Author

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner is one of the most widely read authors by people of all faiths on Jewish spiritual life. He is the best-selling author of such books as Invisible Lines of Connection: Sacred Stories of the Ordinary; God Was in This Place&I, i Did Not Know: Finding Self, Spirituality and Ultimate Meaning; Honey from the Rock: An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism; The Book of Letters: A Mystical Hebrew Alphabet; The Book of Miracles: A Young Person's Guide to Jewish Spiritual Awareness; The Book of Words: Talking Spiritual Life, Living Spiritual Talk; Eyes Remade for Wonder: A Lawrence Kushner Reader; I'm God, You're Not: Observations on Organized Religion and other Disguises of the Ego; Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians; The River of Light: Jewish Mystical Awareness; The Way Into Jewish Mystical Tradition; and co-author of Because Nothing Looks Like God; How Does God Make Things Happen?; Where Is God?; What Does God Look Like?; and In God's Hands. He is the Emanu-El Scholar at San Francisco's Congregation Emanu-El and an adjunct professor of Jewish mysticism and spirituality at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion.

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner is available to speak on the following topics:

• Jewish Mystical Imagination

• Rymanover's Silent Aleph: What Really Happened on Sinai

• Zohar on Romance and Revelation

• What Makes Kabbalah Kabbalah

• Sacred Stories of the Ordinary: When God Makes a Surprise Appearance in Everyday Life

Click here to contact the author.

Gary Schmidt teaches literature at Calvin College. He is coeditor of Winter: A Spiritual Biography of the Season; Autumn: A Spiritual Biography of the Season and Spring: A Spiritual Biography of the Season (all SkyLight Paths). He is also author of Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, a Newbery Honor book; Mara's Stories: Glimmers in the Darkness, a Fanfare 2002 Horn Book honor list book; Straw into Gold; and, with Lawrence Kushner, In God's Hands.

Matthew J. Baek's artwork has appeared in many publications both nationally and internationally. His clients include the Washington Post, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Samsung, and the Progressive magazine. He lives near Washington, D.C., with his wife, Bon Jin, and his daughter, Elisa.

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