I love Midrash. These are stories that explain the holes in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). If there are no holes in the story then they create some so they could be explained. Barbara Diamond Goldin collected 52 of the thousands of stories into “The family book of Midrash.” The description of the book on her home page suggest that it suitable for all reading levels and it is certainly kid friendly. The language is simple yet beautiful, the stories have nothing in them that could harm a child’s growing sensibility. But I probably wouldn’t give it into the hand of anybody under 9-10 year olds. The fact that it is printed with 12 point font also suggests that it not intended for the youngest audience. The introduction suggests ages 8 and up.
I, personally was familiar with about half of the stories. Depending on how much Jewish education you got, or how many drash (sermons) you listened to at services you may know more or less than I did. Nevertheless they all have the feeling that they represent classical Judaism. The filling of the discrepancies of stories from the scriptures are intended not just to explain and maintain the perfection of the given Torah, but also to provide lessons we can use in our own lives. The beauty of this collection is that each story has at least, some more then one such lesson.
The stories are organized chronologically, starting with Noah, and going through Moses, David,. Solomon and post-biblical/Talmudic sages. As a scholar, I appreciated that at the end of each story I found the sources the author drew from. Sometimes they were more than one. Goldin reworded the narration to make it smoother for contemporary readers of all ages. This disturbed me, where I was familiar with the original version, but I had to accept that they fit better into this collection this way. I was glad to read in the introduction that Goldin intentionally selected in stories about women and kept the God language gender-neutral.
The book concludes with a three page basic glossary of the most important terms and a bibliography of 27 works the author used in her work. I cannot say she used 27 books as some of them have many volumes, such as the Babylonian Talmud, the Encyclopedia Judaica or Ginzberg’s Legend of the Jews.
This book was an excellent introduction to Midrash. For over a week I’ve been reading every evening a story or two for my family in bed. I am not sure how much my two year old understands of it, but it sure cannot be harmful for her. It seems to calm her and a put a smile on her face. Maybe it would put on yours too.
P.s. The image of the book cover I posted with this entry is the softcover’s version. I read the hardcover, but didn’t find a good image of it on the internet. But this is the link to the hardcover on Amazon, where you can see it I its blue glory.