A lonely widow, Rivka, has spent weeks, as have all of the other villagers, getting ready for Passover. One of their most important tasks is to rid their homes of leavened bread, referred to as “chometz.” The final search for chometz is undertaken on the evening before Passover begins. Only when they are sure not a bit of chometz remains, can they begin cooking the Seder meal. But this normal routine is upended when a mouse — and then two mice and a cat! — are seen running in and out of the villagers’ homes with bits of bread in their mouths. Have their chometz-free homes been contaminated? If the search for chometz has to be repeated, how will the villagers ever complete all of the other preparations in time for Passover?
What may be surprising about this amusing story is that it is based on an actual passage from the Talmud. This very situation about a mouse seen with a bit of chometz before Passover was debated by the rabbis! And, although there is no definitive answer in the Talmud about whether or not a new search for chometz is necessary, the village rabbi in this story decrees that a new search is needed. The only possible way to accomplish this and still finish all the preparations in time for Passover is for everyone to work together. So, on this Passover, even one more thing is different than a regular day. This year, Rivka celebrates the holiday with her neighbors and is no longer all alone.
The brightly colored and expressive illustrations are an energetic match for the lively story. An author’s note provides more information on the chometz debate and the book includes a glossary of terms.
Susan Kantor was a senior writer/editor for Girl Scouts of the USA, a children’s book editor, and a past judge for the National Jewish Book Awards in the illustrated children’s book category. She is a writer and a docent at the Rubin Museum in New York City, where she leads public and private tours.