Bendet: Shabbos treats that grew (1987)

Shabbos treats that grew” is a lovely little story about the unexpected outcomes of doing good deeds. Once you step on the road of paying attention to others and trying to help them the slippery slope of philanthropy may lead you increasing joy in the life of many other people. Particularly if the “pay it forward” principle gets involved, which is exactly what’s hapenning here.

The story in a nutshell: two siblings first help a kid who they notice at the store couldn’t get any treat for Shabbat, because her mother didn’t have enough money for it. Then they and their friends keep helping them with grocery, and eventually warm up the poor family’s morose landlord too. Who in turn opens up and will help the poor family even more. As you see, there are only positive characters in the book and the overall message is that helping others is a worthwhile mitzvah: it is the right thing to do, it brings you joy and it may even multiply itself in surprising directions.

The story was originally conceived by Mayer Bendet and was written for this book by Yaffa Leba Gottlieb. Miriam Lando‘s illustrations make the book lively and fun for kids who have been reading for a few years. As most pages have 5 to 15 lines of text it may not be the best for the youngest kids.

I didn’t grow up or ever lived as an orthodox Jew. Thus I am not intimately familiar with the details of the everyday life as depicted here. It is clearly set in an orthodox family and neighborhood I only encountered via literature and movies. For me this, being set in an exotic lifestyle in an regular suburb, felt slightly artificial. I assume that you are an orthodox Jew, living similarly to the people described in this book, there is no lingering surreal feeling. To me the drawing’s style enhanced this feeling. Tthe design reminded me of the visual styles I saw in other “orthodox” publications (of other faiths) such as the Watchtower or many varieties of Bible stories for kids. I cannot pinpoint it, but they have all have a simplified, cleancut, worldview with erect, clearly black or white figures.

I loved the message of the story, but because it is not set in a world I live in, I felt alienated from its heroes.

P.s. The text of entire book can be found online here, along with small version of the accompanying images.

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