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Elie Wiesel’s heartbreaking narrative poem about history, immortality, and the power of song, accompanied by magnificent full-color illustrations by award-winning artist Mark Podwal. Based on an actual event that occurred during World War II.
It is the evening before the holiday of Purim, and the Nazis have given the ghetto’s leaders twenty-four hours to turn over ten Jews to be hanged to “avenge” the deaths of the ten sons of Haman, the villain of the Purim story, which celebrates the triumph of the Jews of Persia over potential genocide some 2,400 years ago. If the leaders refuse, the entire ghetto will be liquidated. Terrified, they go to the ghetto’s rabbi for advice; he tells them to return the next morning. Over the course of the night the rabbi calls up the spirits of legendary rabbis from centuries past for advice on what to do, but no one can give him a satisfactory answer. The eighteenth-century mystic and founder of Hasidism, the Baal Shem Tov, tries to intercede with God by singing a niggun—a wordless, joyful melody with the power to break the chains of evil.
The next evening, when no volunteers step forward, the ghetto’s residents are informed that in an hour they will all be killed. As the minutes tick by, the ghetto’s rabbi teaches his assembled community the song that the Baal Shem Tov had sung the night before. And then the voices of these men, women, and children soar to the heavens.
How can the heavens not hear?

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780805243635
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/17/2020
Pages: 64
Sales rank: 1,154,641
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

The author of more than sixty works of fiction and nonfiction, ELIE WIESEL was awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the French Legion of Honor's Grand Cross, an honorary knighthood of the British Empire and, in 1986, the Nobel Peace Prize. He was the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University for forty years, until his death in 2016.

MARK PODWAL has written and illustrated more than a dozen books, and has illustrated more than two dozen works by such authors as Elie Wiesel, Heinrich Heine, Harold Bloom, and Francine Prose. King Solomon and His Magic Ring, a collaboration with Wiesel, received the Silver Medal from the Society of Illustrators, and You Never Know, a collaboration with Prose, received a National Jewish Book Award. His art is represented in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Prague's National Gallery, and the Jewish museums in Berlin, Vienna, Prague, and New York, among other venues. Honors he has received include being named Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government, the Jewish Cultural Achievement Award from the Foundation for Jewish Culture, and the Gratias Agit Prize from the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


New York, New York

Date of Birth:

September 30, 1928

Place of Birth:

Sighet, Romania


La Sorbonne

Read an Excerpt

A ghetto,
somewhere in the East,
during the reign of night,
under skies of copper and fire.

The leaders of the community,
good people all,
courageous all,
fearing God and loving His Law,
came to see the rabbi who has cried and cried,
and has searched darkness for an answer with such passion that he no longer can see.

It’s urgent,
they tell him,
it’s more than urgent;
it’s a matter of life or death for some Jews and perhaps all Jews.

says the rabbi,
tell me all:
I wish not to be spared.

This is what the enemy demands,
says the oldest of the old Jews to the rabbi,
who listens breathlessly.
The enemy demands ten Jews,
chosen by us and handed over to him before tomorrow evening.
Tomorrow is Purim,
and the enemy,
planning to avenge
Haman’s ten sons,
will hang ten of our own,
says the oldest of the old Jews.
And he asks:
What are we to do, rabbi?
Tell us what to do.

And his colleagues,
brave people though frightened,
repeat after him:
What are we to do, rabbi?
Tell us what to do.

We are afraid,
says the oldest of the old Jews,
afraid to make a decision—
afraid to make the wrong decision:
Help us, rabbi,
decide for us—and in our place.

And the rabbi,
their guide,
feels his knees weakening,
the blood rushing to his face,
his chest is ready to burst,
and the room is turning,
turning around him,
and so is the earth,
and so are the skies,
and soon,
he feels,
he will fall as falls the blind man,
a victim of night and its prowlers.

He demands an answer,
says the oldest of the old Jews,
the enemy demands an answer;
tell us what it must be,
our duty is to guide just as ours is to follow.

What should we do or say?
ask the leaders of the ghetto somewhere in the East under forbidden and cursed skies;
what can we do so as not to be doomed?

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