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Letter on the Wind: A Chanukah Tale (2007)

Retold by Sarah Marwil Lamstein

Illustrated by Neil Waldmen

Pran watercolors and Micron archival inking pens on Arches cold-pressed watercolor paper

Boyds Mills Press

Tonight is the first night of Chanukah... not to mention the night before Thanksgiving and my son's birthday. There was some snow in the wind on the walk home from the train station, but it became mere rain - cold rain - as I finally approached our house.

I have several books on Purim reviewed on this blog, but none on Chanukah. I am trying to remedy that oversight. This story is a based on "A Letter to the Almighty," the author informs us, which was collected in the book Folktales of Israel published in 1963, edited by Dov Noy. But she doesn't stop there. "Meir Amrusi recorded the original tale," she continues, "as told by his Tunisian-born father."

It's been around for a long while.

Something which struck me as similiar to this as many of the other Jewish folktales I've reviewed on this blog, is that God does not make an appearance, nor is there anything supernatural about the proceedings. It all hinges on a grand misunderstanding. Hayim, the poorest man in his village, writes a letter to God, asking him to please provide the oil necessary for Chanukah, lest the entire village goes without their holiday for the season. The letter is carried off by the wind, and lands in the hands of Ger Yehudah, a wealthy merchant, who assumes the letter is from God... You see how these things happen.

The faith in God is what is important, to be a man of faith is what is most praised. The story charts the lives of both men, strangers to each other, and their eventual meeting, which is moving for both of them.

Perhaps  I was wrong when I said there was nothing supernatural:

From that time on in the village, there was never a year without Chanukah. The rain was a friend, the olive trees blossomed, and there was oil enough to light the menorahs.

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