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Irreverent? Yes, but comic-book Rabbi works- A book review

Rabbi of Israel for Kids:

Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu Ztk"l Part-One

Written and illustrated by Netanel and Bat-El Epstein

Translation: Galila Ishran

40 pages. NIS 50. Darchei Horaa Ltd. Publishers, 2013.

Available from tel: 02 652 1195 

"What is the connection … between a police car chase and divine revelation? Between a top secret Mossad operation in South America and total devotion to the Torah? Between a bag of rotten tomatoes and the love of Israel?"

Rabbi of Israel for Kids is a lively and engaging adaptation of stories from the life of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, presented in a comic-book format. For those of us who remember the great Rabbi as a religious court judge (dayan), Chief Rabbi of Beersheva for four years, Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Israel (1983-1993) and as one who sat on the Supreme Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem, this format may seem irreverent. Yet it is an effective and entertaining vehicle for presenting a great personality, religious authority and public figure to children, making him seem accessible and sympathetic.

The book joins many others of this genre—illustrated books about the lives of righteous men—to educate and strengthen a child's grasp of the Torah and to encourage him to do mitzvot (good deeds) by observing and learning from examples.

The stories were originally written for adults by his son Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu in a series of books, Avihem Shel Yisrael, about his father's life, and were published after the Rabbi's death. The adaptation of the stories for children was first written in Hebrew and has now been well translated into English. The illustrations are expressive and of good quality. I would suggest, however, that future editions be bigger, with larger print.

The ten stories presented here portray different qualities of the Rabbi: his keenness of mind, humility, respect for his parents and elders, charity, resourcefulness, intellectual abilities, cleverness, faith, kindness, piety, his respect for the Torah, his love of children and his compassion.

Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu attempted to reach out to secular Israeli Jews, giving them a better understanding of the relevance of Jewish customs. Throughout his travels in Israel and the world, he stressed the vital importance of Jewish education, Shabbat observance, family purity, fighting assimilation and making aliyah, and he occasionally lectured in secular moshavim and kibbutzim.

Great moral figures can lead nations and yet find the time, energy, love, devotion and understanding to care for the individual. They make important decisions, often have strong and definite opinions and have the capacity and talent to persuade and influence people. These leaders are also human beings, and by definition are fallible. They make mistakes—even great ones. This may diminish their stature in the eyes of some, but if accepted as a sign of their humanity and imperfection, we can all appreciate, honor and learn from the greatness of their vision, understanding and wisdom. 



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