Talmudic tales are a rich source of literature for children. They are redolent with atmosphere, packed with layers of meaning, evocative of historic times, and feature characters surprisingly easy to connect with and love. This one focuses on the earth and the cycle of nature. It tells us never to take rain for granted; to remember that it provides sustenance, nourishes the earth, and is vital to life.
Rabbi Hanina Ben Dosa is caught in a terrible downpour and is suddenly, soakingly, uncomfortably wet. He knows that the rain is good for the earth and its creatures, and that the growing things depend on its regular appearance but still … he wants to be warm and dry. He prays for the rain to stop, which it does. Hanina is satisfied until he remembers the plants, the animals, and the cracked, thirsty soil. When the rain once again begins to fall, Hanina realizes he can stay warm and cozy inside his home while the rest of the world enjoys and benefits from the wonderful rain outside.
A simple afterword retells the story of Rabbi Hanina and the rain in a passage translated from the Babylonian Talmud. The story is accompanied by art so richly colored and lushly drawn that it seems to have soaked up the benefits of a gentle, healing rain.
There’s much to learn from this simple story; it delivers the kind of lesson that sticks. Once absorbed, it can change a child’s outlook and will last for a lifetime.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.