The Passover Lamb: Children's Book Review and Discussion Guide
Title: The Passover Lamb
Author: Linda Elovitz Marshall
Illustrator: Tatjana Mai-Wyss
Publisher: Random House
Intended for Ages: 5-6 years
Jewish Topics: Passover seder, Pikuach Nefesh (preserving life)
Additional Topics Mentioned: Creative solutions to modern-day Jewish dilemmas; Pride in one's accomplishments
Preparing for her family's seder, the ritual meal that marks the start of Passover, Miriam has been practicing the chanting of Mah Nishtanah - the Four Questions traditionally chanted by the youngest person at the table. The day finally dawns on the family's farm, and suddenly Miriam finds herself confronted by a dilemma — participate in the mitzvah of her family's Passover seder, or stay on the farm and feed a new baby lamb that needs her help to survive. With a little creative thinking, she finds a way to do both, making the experience more meaningful in the process.
Creativity can help solve modern-day Jewish dilemmas. When Miriam discovers that a newborn lamb needs to be hand-fed in order to survive, she feels torn between staying to help the lamb and going to her family's seder. With creativity — and her parents' flexibility — she finds a compromise. Far from taking away from her performance of either obligation, Miriam's solution imbues both the lamb's life and the seder with extra meaning.
A sense of purpose makes life meaningful. The story opens with Miriam fulfilling two sets of responsibilities — helping with the work of her family's farm, and learning to chant the Four Questions in Hebrew. She meets both expectations with a sense of joyful obligation. Children thrive in an environment where they share in the (age appropriate) responsibilities of their household and from having a sense of purpose.
Jewish Topics for Family Discussion
Passover Seder: This story takes place on the eve of the festival of Passover, known in Hebrew as Pesach. Passover is also known in the Hebrew Bible as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because a central obligation is to eat matza and avoid leavened food products for seven days. The Passover seder is the most widely celebrated Jewish ritual of Jews worldwide. The seder — meaning order — retells the story of the Jewish people's redemption from slavery in Egypt through fifteen interactive steps that include singing, storytelling, role-playing, and symbolic ritual foods. There is special emphasis on the involvement of little ones in asking questions, and traditionally, the youngest person at the seder table chants four questions which focus on how Passover differs from any other night of the year. You and your child can learn the Four Questions together at home — no previous experience necessary! You can also visit ReformJudaism.org to learn what to expect at a Passover seder, to find Passover recipes, such as a recipe for matzah balls, or to find a Passover Community Seder at a congregation near you.
Pikuach Nefesh: In Judaism, the obligation to preserve life is called pikuach nefesh. This core value trumps all other religious obligations and is one of our most sacred responsibilities. The Talmud teaches us that each human soul is unique and of infinite potential (Sanhedrin 37b). While pikuach nefesh pertains only to human beings, Judaism calls us to be kind to animals (Tza'ar Ba'alei Chaim). However, in this book, Miriam does more than that, and treats a little lamb as a soul that must be saved. You can set an example for your kids by joining the registry at The Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation. By doing so, you may save the life of another human being. All it takes to join the registry is two minutes and a few cotton swabs. To search for a donor drive near you — or to send for a swab kit, make a donation, or organize a donor drive in your area, visit The Gift of Life
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. The Passover Lamb has been one of the popular selections for the 5-6 year old children who subscribe to PJ Library®. Enroll your child to be a part of this exciting program.