Children's book conveys ageless theme of Passover.
By Ron Orozco / The Fresno Bee
at Temple Beth Israel Religious School in Fresno are a little more familiar with a brave boy Nachshon -- and Passover.They
learned he was afraid of the water. Yet, he overcame his fear, wading into the Red Sea, the first person to step into the
sea when the waters parted for Moses.A little boy, a big story.
lesson came during a recent story time in teacher Deborah Reba's classroom for second grade. Student assistant Jessica
Rosenfeld, 17, a student at Buchanan High School, read the new children's book, "Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim:
A Passover Story" to the students. . .
"We're told to retell the story of the Exodus," says
Jeanna Francis, director of education at Temple Beth Israel Religious School. . . She believes "Nachshon, Who Was Afraid
to Swim: A Passover Story" takes a fresh look at the ageless Passover story.
The book's author, Deborah Bodin Cohen, says she wanted to personalize the Passover story for children,
developing a theme -- fear -- that they relate to. She is rabbi for lifelong education at Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill, N.J.,
and mother to a 7-year-old girl, Arianna, and 14-month-old son, Jesse.
children have a fear of something," she says.Cohen says she hopes readers put themselves in the position of the Israelites,
particularly Nachshon. Then, they can better understand that God is with them during their struggles.
"It's a form of faith that God would provide for them," she says. Cohen says her book
is based on Nachshon, the character in the Midrash, which is any of the rabbinical commentaries and explanatory notes on the
Scriptures. Nachshon is mentioned briefly in the Torah and the Bible. Rabbis in the first few centuries of the Common Era
wrote that Nachshon first had the faith to walk in the Red Sea, among the reeds. Cohen presents what Nachshon also must have
At the Fresno synagogue's Religious School,
the children listened closely as Rosenfeld read to them and held open pages so they could view the illustrations. The illustrations
show slaves toiling in the hot desert sun. Pharaoh and his courtiers. Moses rallying the Israelites. God's plagues over
the land. Locusts. Frogs.Then, Nachshon's step into the Red Sea. And his walk to freedom.After the reading stopped, Reba
asked, "What is the book about?"
a girl answered.
Reba explained the writings came from the Midrash
-- and not from the Tanak nor Torah."Is it a true story?" a boy asked.
Reba answered that the book poses questions answered in the Torah. Sounded good to the boy and others.
"Have there been many rabbis?" a girl asked."Many."
When students were asked if they had fears similar to Nachshon's, many hands
shot up.A girl said it is scary to dive off a diving board into a swimming pool. A boy said he isn't sure about doing
flips on the bars at playgrounds.
Reba reminded them that God can help them -- just like he did with Nachshon.
She says, "With overcoming fears, it's hearing that inner voice."And some students smiled back.