Bible Thumper

Oh man. Being Jewish in New York was super easy. Say for instance you’re not sure which night of Hanukkah it is. In New York, just glance in the window of any Korean deli and see how many candles are lit on the electric menorah.

In Greater Boston it takes a bit more effort. It’s not that the area is devoid of Jews. But local references to “the Tribe” are usually with respect to the Wampanoag. And good luck finding a decent bagel to schmear. (In fairness, decent bagels are commonplace. But I know of only one truly good bagel in the area.)

Complicating matters, my son is suddenly smitten by the Easter Bunny. Fox has been making weekly pilgrimages to the mall, where to his utter amazement a six-foot fluffy bunny offers redemption, resurrection, and a seated photo-op.

Ironically for Jews, we have abysmal marketing for our holidays. Hanukkah pyrotechnics are cool and all; but the menorah is no match for Santa Clause and the firmament of Christmas lights. Worse is our secular answer to a Christmas tree: the Hanukkah bush. It’s like a case study in penis envy.

ten plague finger puppetsThis week, amid Easter egg hunts and chocolate bunnies, I’m stuck trying to get my two year-old excited about the ten plague finger puppets his grandma sent for Passover. I got as far as covering his thumbs with lice and boils before Fox refused any more role-play with afflictions.

Given my son’s age, it’s awhile before I need to make sense of all this. But when the time comes, I’ll be thankful to have the divinely inspired children’s bible, The Oldest Bedtime Story Ever. Thoughtfully written and gorgeously illustrated by Ben Morse, this bible comes as a revelation.

Morse manages to simplify the Old Testament without ever patronizing his young audience. He faithfully presents episodes of pathos, violence and mystery as timeless human experience. Yet he emphasizes the recurring themes of hope, perseverance, and justice.

The narrative is impressive in scope, and widely accessible. These are stories not about archetypes, but individuals. They follow parents and siblings caught between divinity and despair. Morse’s prose reflects a love for the text that is both scholarly and personal. And his telling honors the shared legacy of the Hebrew Bible, without excluding any singular interpretation. Clever trick, that.

Most sensational are the illustrations. So many biblical drawings preempt your imagination, leading you by the nose to stodgy visions of a bearded God or men in tunics. Morse deploys a dazzling array of shapes, patterns, color and even textures. He’s created mesmerizing collages to fuel the visions of any aspiring prophet.

Following on the acclaim for his first book, it is rumored that Mr. Morse is working on a children’s version of the New Testament. I’m hoping that by then, the boys in marketing will have a campaign to compete with the Easter Bunny.

The Oldest Bedtime Story Ever, by Benjamin Morse; $30, ages 3 to 969

featured artwork used courtesy of the publisher, Orson & Co.
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5 Responses to Bible Thumper

  1. Alicia H March 26, 2013 at 10:12 am #

    Okay, so where is the best bagel in the area?

    • Daddy Confidential March 26, 2013 at 10:50 am #

      Kupel’s in Brookline makes the best bagels, hands down. My go-to is their whole wheat everything bagel, which disappears fast. Call a day ahead to place a bulk order. I usually freeze a few dozen at a time, then defrost in the microwave before putting in the toaster.
      They also have great cream cheese, challah, etc. Oh and they stock whitefish salad by Rachael’s. I’m all out of superlatives to describe it.

  2. Michele March 26, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    For our babymoon, Peter has promised to take me to Rockaway, NY (I think that is right) where he SWEARS the best NY bagels are (he assures me these actually are delivered to the City… We shall see… I love bagels… He also says I can pick one off some sort of bagel making conveyer… Again, we shall see…)

    Just a note, dont feel you’re going all Christian over the bunny and eggs… It’s actually quite the Pagan celebration. :) We even do ours over the Equinox, versus on Easter (which is usually referred to in our house by the Greek way, Pascha, or as Resurrection Sunday). See… You can have the bunny, eggs, chocolate, and Judaism too! :) (and my kids are fascinated by menorahs… I think they find them wwwaaaayyyy cooler than green trees with lights! Of course, we dont do “Santa”, so maybe that is why!)

    • Daddy Confidential March 26, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

      Admittedly, I encourage Fox’s participation in just about every activity that’ll keep him engaged and stimulated. Pagan rituals are tops on his list. Also interpretive dance.

      If you’re heading to the Rockaways, be sure stop in at Jay & Lloyd’s Kosher Deli in Sheepshead Bay. It’s legendary.

  3. aimee July 17, 2016 at 4:10 pm #

    Easter was originally a Pagan holiday to celebrate spring, appropriated by the Christians into something religious…

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