Children's Literature Bookshelf

“Wonders and Miracles: A Passover Companion” by Eric Kimmel. Scholastic Press, New York, 2004, 136 pages, Grades 7 and higher.

“Wonders and Miracles: A Passover Companion”  by Eric Kimmel.
Scholastic Press, New York, 2004, 136 pages, Grades 7 and higher.

Passover is the high feast of Judaism which celebrates God freeing the Jewish people from the slavery of the Egyptian pharaoh.  The towering figure of Moses is repeatedly seen in the Book of Exodus during these dramatic events.  Moses is called by God through the fire of the burning bush.  Sent to Egypt with his brother Aaron, Moses confronts the Pharaoh and demands that the Jewish people be allowed to freely worship God.  But Pharaoh refuses to let the people go.  Moses tells all the Jewish people to spread the blood of a lamb on the doorway lintel.  The blood of the lamb on Jewish doorways will mark the Jews as having been spared of the tenth plague in the Book of Exodus, the death of the first borne. 

That night, an angel “passes over” the Jewish households but strikes down the first born in the unmarked Egyptian households.  After this, the Pharaoh commands and the Egyptians entreat the Jews to leave Egypt.  This is the beginning of the Exodus.  Each year at Passover, Jewish people throughout the world celebrate the Passover with a Seder meal.  Throughout this meal, the entire history of Israel is retold.  Famed author/illustrator Eric Kimmel has written a book of great beauty and eloquence about Passover.  Its name is: “Wonders and Miracles: A Passover Companion.”

The Seder Meal, with its rich traditions, is central to understanding Jewish history.  There are four cups of wine, three pieces of Matzah (unleavened bread), salt water, a shank bone (paschal lamb), greens, bitter herbs, Charoset (mixture of sweet fruit, nuts and wine) and finally Elijah’s Cup.  The Seder Meal begins with a series of blessings and the lighting of candles.  The four cups of wine used during various sections of the holy meal represent God freeing, delivering, redeeming and choosing the people of Israel.  The salt water represents the tears of slavery in Egypt and the passage to freedom through the Red Sea.  After dipping the greens in the salt water and eating them, the Matzah is broken into three pieces.  These pieces represent the priests, the Levites and the people of Israel.  The Matzah also serves to remind the Jewish people of God feeding them with the bread-like Manna during their wandering in the desert.  The middle pieces are broken in half and one half is hidden for the children to look for at the end of the Seder Meal.  It is known as the Afikoman (after dessert).  It has a practical value of keeping young children interested and awake during the Seder Meal. It is always a treat to find the Afikoman later and be rewarded. 

The numerous prayers and blessings continue throughout the celebration leading up to eating the pascal lamb or some other type of meat.  The concluding prayers and blessings are then shown in this wonderful book.

Besides learning about the meaning and various parts of the Seder Meal, Catholics must remember that the Last Supper was a Seder Meal.  This is the meal during which Jesus tells the apostles that He “longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Lk 22:15)  At the Last Supper, Our Lord institutes the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of the Priesthood.  This makes an understanding of the Seder Meal foundational to our Catholic faith.  Kimmel gives us many additional details of Jewish life in this excellent work.  From recipes for baking Matzah to stories from Jewish folklore and history, readers will gain a deeper appreciation for the Jewish religion.  Simply outstanding, I hope you get a chance to read this beautiful book and share it with your family.

Terrence Nollen




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