Joseph and the Sabbath Fish

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—In this retelling of an ancient folktale, Joseph loves to celebrate the Jewish Sabbath by inviting friends and strangers to a festive meal each week. Neighbor Judah declares that this is a waste of money and correctly predicts that Joseph's fortunes will suffer. When Judah dreams that his own property will go to Joseph, he tries to escape his fate by converting all of his cash into one large ruby that he sews into his hat before setting sail for foreign shores. Of course, the ship sinks, and Joseph ends up with the fish that ate the ruby, restoring his wealth. Bedraggled Judah, having learned his lesson, ends up back in Israel helping Joseph celebrate the Sabbath with an open heart. Marilyn Hirsh's version of the same folktale, Joseph Who Loved the Sabbath (Viking, l986), has an elegant simplicity that contrasts with Kimmel's heavy detail and more complex story line. The strong folktale elements of the earlier version (poor vs. rich, death of the villain) have been softened in the update, adding some subtlety but losing some impact. The celebration of the Sabbath itself is described in more detail by Hirsh, but has been reduced to a festive meal in Kimmel's version. Both retellings include colorful, stylized illustrations; the rounded style of the new art has more appeal for modern readers. Libraries owning Hirsh's version can consider this update an optional purchase, but for others, it is a solid addition.—Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
In this legendary tale of long ago, Joseph lives in Tiberias, Israel by the Sea of Galilee. He honors the Sabbath, as he should, by setting his table with his finest wares and inviting everyone to celebrate with him. His neighbor Judah does not share, and he warns Joseph that he will soon have nothing if he continues his celebrations. Soon, Joseph is poor. Judah dreams that Joseph gets all his money, and is so frightened that he sells all he owns to buy a large ruby. He sews it into his cap and leaves Tiberias for Africa. While he is at sea, a storm blows his cap and the ruby into the ocean. Back in Tiberias, Joseph is still poor. However, he still celebrates the Sabbath and is given a huge fish after helping a fisherman. The ruby is discovered in the fish. His wealth returned, Joseph welcomes Judah back and shares with him. "For truly it is said, what we give to the Sabbath is repaid a thousandfold." The stylized visual story is set in theatrical sequence in double-page scenes; the stolid characters are like sculptures. The unadorned cityscape and clothing and the stark geometry of the buildings combine to produce a sense of quiet appropriate to the story's theme. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Kirkus Reviews

Award-winner Kimmel retells a Jewish fable of greed and generosity.

At Joseph's weekly Sabbath table, all are welcomed—rich or poor, young or old. Joseph's neighbor, Judah, also sets a bountiful table each week, but he prefers to invite only important people to his Sabbath meal; he gives his charity to the beggars in the street. Judah chastises Joseph for his excessive hospitality and correctly predicts that he will soon lose all his wealth. A foreboding dream warns Judah that he, too, might lose his fortune and that Joseph will one day count Judah's money for himself. Judah, shaken, sells his property, buys a large ruby and leaves Tiberias by sea—and loses the jewel, the last of his wealth, in a strong storm. Returning to Tiberias, he approaches the always kind and benevolent Joseph for help. Joseph's luck has once again changed with a fish he received at market: Cutting it open revealed the ruby Judah lost. As in Marilyn Hirsh's Joseph Who Loved the Sabbath, illustrated by Devis Grebu (1986), Kimmel reconciles the differing attitudes through a conclusion about the importance of celebrating the Sabbath "with an open door and an open heart." Blended shades of blues, purples and greens done in watercolor, pen and pastel illuminate the old Israeli scenes integral to the narration.

Heartwarming for Jewish collections and religious-school settings. (Picture book/religion.5-7)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780761359098
  • Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/28/2011
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 1,476,425
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.60 (w) x 10.20 (h) x 0.10 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Great Story Representing Any Religion

    An excellent story about the benefits - to everyone - of openness and generosity. An important tale about including the ideas and experiences of all, about the value of social contacts and events, about tradition. This is what all religions teach far and above any other belief: kindness, confidence and compassion. The pictures are beautiful and the story the perfect length. An outstanding achievement.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2011

    This is a wonderful parable of how Joseph was repaid a thousandfold for his generosity on the Sabbath (Shabbat) ...

    Joseph was an Israeli who lived in Tiberias. The swaying palm trees reached to the blue skies and the Sea of Galilee was was rich with many different kinds of fish. Joseph's eyes twinkled as he prepared for the Sabbath. His table was set with only the finest foods money could buy from the challah loaves to the fish and the wine. Everything was fit to welcome a king, but when he opened his doors "travelers are from home, beggars from the alleys, young and old, rich or poor," streamed into his home to celebrate, a home that was richer than the seas themselves. The home of Judah, Joseph's neighbor, had a finely set table as well, but had a door that remained closed on the Sabbath. No beggars would cross his threshold to celebrate the Sabbath with him!

    Judah could not understand why Joseph would throw good money to the winds feeding lowly beggars, but his friend was adamant that it was necessary. "Everyone is important. Those who come to my table are honoring me, and together we honor the Sabbath. What we give to the Sabbath is repaid a thousandfold." Judah was equally adamant thinking his friend's actions were foolhardy and was certain that Joseph would be penniless in the end. Such thinking was nonsense! Slowly, but surely Judah's prediction came true and Joseph's fortunes dwindled, but his door was still open to everyone. One night Judah had a strange dream. In it Joseph was "sitting in his house, overseeing his lands, and counting his money as if it were his own." Was Judah going to lose his fortune to that fool, Joseph? Should he flee Galilee in order to save it?

    This is a wonderful parable of how Joseph was repaid a thousandfold for his generosity on the Sabbath. I loved this tale, a tale which had a wonderfully unique twist to it at the end. Any children who heasr or reads this tale can be certain that stingy Judah is going to be right and Joseph will lose his fortune. However, the story gives us the sense that somehow Joseph will saved from his plight and will continue to welcome people, including stingy Judah, into his home regardless of his financial situation. There is a sense of excitement and tension when Judah flees Galilee for Africa and a mystery sets in. This is an excellent tale to read to young children to emphasize the importance of the Sabbath (Shabbat). Anyone who would like to use it to begin their child's religious education should certainly add Joseph and his special Sabbath fish to their list!

    This book courtesy of the publisher.

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