Title: Tales of the Navi: Sefer Yehoshua
Written by: Rabbi Nachi Friedman, Rhymes by Jennifer Friedman
If I may borrow from the Pesach Seder, which models four types of students, we had all Arba Banim in our family take a look at this book. We have the Chochom, those who have already learned Sefer Yehoshua. We have the Contrary Son, who asks “What is this service to you?” We have the Tam, and we have the Eino Yodeah Lish’ol.
This was well received by every member of the household. The illustrations by Racheli David caught the eye of my toddler granddaughter, and she brought the book over to me more than once to discuss the pictures. She loved the rugelach on the cover and was mightily intrigued by the hand from Shamayim breaking the wall. (I ended up having a discussion with my ten-year-old, who was also captivated by it, about Hashem not being physical and not having a hand and what drawing it this way could be illustrating.)
My Contrary Child picked it up, and was charmed by the rhymes. Although only a few minutes were spent reading the actual book, it was enough for us to get into a discussion about Rachav the Innkeeper and Chazal’s alternative interpretation of Rachav the Zonah (Rashi, Yehoshua 2:11), and we discussed the Gemara in Megilla 15a about Rachav’s fame. My Contrary Child was astonished when I shared the Chazal that Rachav converted and married Yehoshua (Megilla 14b).
“What made Rachav help the spies and help the Jews capture the city?”
“She’d heard about Kriyas Yam Suf and the great miracles and everyone was terrified,” I answered.
“But everyone heard about that.”
“True,” I said.
“Rachav reacted differently.”
“You can understand why Yehoshua would marry her after she converted,” I said.
“Judaism really values people’s character over their reputation,” my Contrary Child mused.
My target audience was my Tam, who had never learned Yehoshua before. I handed it to him and said I got him a special book for Shabbos. He, too, was attracted to the illustrations and asked if he had to wait for Shabbos or if he could read it earlier. I told him he could certainly read it earlier. As it turned out, he brought it to post-Friday-night-dinner-snuggle and my husband read it to him. True to Tam form, he requested all Discussion pages and extra questions be skipped. “I’m not interested in all that,” he said. (Oops! In skipping Discussion Questions, we accidentally also skipped the Summary Sections, which give valuable point by point summaries of the perakim.)
The next morning, he crept into my bed holding the book and asked if I would finish reading it to him. I was pleased that he’d enjoyed it so much that he complained about stopping and it was the first thing he wanted to do the next morning. We took our time, looking at the pictures and talking about the stories. I was impressed with the Points to Ponder and the Interesting Points sections, which manage to include an impressive amount of meforshim and commentaries in straightforward and clear language that is pretty easy to understand. It’s easy to underestimate the erudition involved in this little book because it’s so seamlessly integrated, but I’m dazzled by the scholarship and the presentation.
Sof kol sof, I strongly recommend this book and as soon as more are written, I will be snapping them up to share them with my children and grandchildren.