Bone Button Borscht
Title: Bone Button Borscht
Author: Aubrey Davis
Illustrator: Dušan Petričić
Intended for Ages: 5-6 years
Jewish Customs: Sukkot, Hachnasat Orchim (the mitzvah of welcoming guests), Ma’achil Re’evim (feeding the hungry), Chesed (an act of kindness)
Additional Topics Mentioned: We are more powerful as a group than as individuals, First impressions can be deceiving
A retelling of the popular folk story Stone Soup. A tired beggar reaches a small town on a cold, wintery night, seeking food and a warm bed. When the poor locals are reluctant to assist, he promises to make a delicious soup from six bone buttons. Curious to see this miracle come to life, the townspeople come to watch and without even realizing, all assist the beggar with the task at hand. A delicious soup is soon prepared and the locals learn an important lesson about the value of collaboration.
- This story shows that people are stronger when they work together, and demonstrates the power of a community. The beggar arrives in a town whose residents are poor and hungry. Worried only about their own survival, the townspeople initially refuse to assist the beggar. He is told that times are so bad that they don’t even help one another. When the locals are convinced that the beggar can magically make soup out of bone buttons, they are much more willing to lend a helping hand, and soon they are all happily contributing a vegetable, pot or bowl. Making soup together, the entire community is able to fill their stomachs as well as their souls, and the locals manage to achieve far more than they would have by working individually.
- This story reminds us that we should treat everyone with respect. When the beggar first asks the townspeople for help, they ignore him or treat him dismissively. Instead of being kind and helping a man who is going through a hard time, they disrespect him. It doesn’t take long before the locals realize that he has a lot more to offer than is initially apparent. This reinforces that every person deserves to be respected, regardless of their appearance.
Jewish Topics for Family Discussion
- The value of hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests) in Jewish tradition: In this story, the importance of hospitality is explored when the townspeople, who are anything but hospitable to the beggar in the beginning, gain so much when they band together to help him. The upcoming holiday of Sukkot is a wonderful opportunity to be hospitable and invite people to your home. Visit the Sukkot page on Reformjudaism.org for holiday-related information and activities.
- The crucial mitzvah of ma’achil re’evim: Another central Jewish mandate that is highlighted is feeding the hungry. The way that the townspeople treat the beggar when he first asks for help is the exact opposite of what Jewish values espouse. Yom Kippur provides Jews with a tangible opportunity to think about alleviating hunger, and many synagogues take the opportunity to collect food for local food pantries. Even if your family doesn't have a chance to make a contribution, you can read the following Yom Kippur Social Justice Guide and talk with your family about how you can help feed the hungry and save lives all year long.
Bone Button Borscht was mailed to 5-6 year old children in June 2014 as part of their PJ Library® subscription. PJ Library® provides the gift of free Jewish books and music to families raising Jewish children between the ages of 6 months and 8 years. To find out if subscriptions are available in your area, please visit the PJ Library®-URJ-WRJ Partnership page.