Children’s Rosh Hashana Stories from the Past

I recently (like, earlier this week) acquired a 1944 edition What the Moon Brought by Sadie Rose Weilerstein (first edition 1942) and a more recent reprinting of holiday K’tonton stories by the same author (stories published 1930-1935). The stories, as some Amazon reviews note, are dated. The style is of a bygone era. In some ways it’s simpler than today’s stories. The Amazon review I read first scorned the story about Debbie and Ruth watering the flowers, and the bees providing honey in gratitude. Ironically, the reviewer suggests that readers “Try K’tonton instead” – K’tonton, which was published earlier than What the Moon Brought, has apparently aged better, according to this reviewer.

But the Rosh Hashana story in What the Moon Brought reminded me of a record I grew up with:

In this story, Fuzzy and Buzzy the Bees are trying to make honey for Rosh Hashana per the queen bee’s command. Fuzzy buzzes around Eli’s head, and Eli hits Fuzzy with a garden hose. Fuzzy loses his honey and worries that the queen will be upset him, but Buzzy gives Fuzzy half of her honey. The queen tastes the honey and says that Buzzy’s is extra-special, thick and delicious. Buzzy is crowned, and the narrator says “to do mitzvos makes your life sweet, indeed!”

Is this saccharine? Sure. Would I give it to my kids? Well, no, because I don’t have kids, don’t plan on having kids, and wouldn’t raise them with Jewish texts. But my approach as a scholar makes all these texts equally important. And, yes, there’s a huge element of nostalgia – I listen to I Hear a Mitzvah every so often, and enjoy it!

I Hear a Mitzvah (Side #1 of the record)

I hadn’t known about Sadie Rose Weilerstein’s books until a few weeks ago, when Yaffa Ganz mentioned them in her answers to my questions about her own books. Written over the decade from 1990-2000, the ten books in Ganz’s holiday series feature a dove, Chaggai HaYonah, who lives with the siblings Bina and Benny, and teaches them about each holiday. Illustrated by Liat Benyaminy Ariel in amazing detail, these books were also a huge part of my childhood.

Rosh Hashanah with Bina, Benny, and Chaggai HaYonah | Eichlers

All of this sent me down a path of memory and nostalgia – mine and others’ – just in time for the Yomim Noraim (the High Holy Days). In honor of that, I’m going to share excerpts from these texts over the next few days.

Shana tova to everyone, and may the coming year bring more joy, less sorrow; more beauty, less pain; more sense, less stupidity; more compassion, less hatred; more life, less death.

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