By Avi Dresner / Special to the BJV
Anyone who has ever known a child, who likes to pick up random things of apparently no value or significance - in short, anyone who has ever known or been a child - will recognize Bezalel, the protagonist of Rabbi Leah Rachel Berkowitz’s children’s book, The World Needs Beautiful Things.
And anyone who knows the Bible will recognize the name of the artist charged by God with constructing the mishkan, the portable tabernacle, which served as God’s dwelling place amongst the Israelites and was where God and Moses would meet on the long journey to the Promised Land.
The Bible, however, has little to say about Bezalel’s backstory other than whose son and grandson he was, and what tribe he came from. And so, Berkowitz’s delightful tale, beautifully illustrated by Daniele Fabbri, makes for an entertaining and inspiring origin story. Think of it as an itty-bitty biblically inspired bildungsroman.
The 32-page picture book, published by well known Jewish children’s book publisher Kar-Ben and suitable for children age 3-8, begins with Bezalel as a young slave in Egypt who likes to put all manner of found objects into his Beautiful Things Box - shiny stones, dyed strings, even bug wings. Bezalel’s friends tell him to stop, but he doesn’t because although the objects appear to have no power to anyone else, they transport him into a world of beauty where Bezalel can temporarily forget he’s a slave.
When the Israelites are miraculously freed, Bezalel’s parents beg him to leave the box behind in Egypt, to take only what they “need.” But he takes it with him, saying: “Each of these things is beautiful in its own way, and the world needs beautiful things.”
And it’s a good thing he does for pretty soon God is telling Moses to build a house made of beautiful things. And who do you think steps up first to the offering plate?
Plus, in doing so, not only does Bezalel share his treasures, but he inspires the other Israelites to see beautiful things all around them and, together, they use them to make the mishkan, or as it’s called in the book “the biggest Beautiful Things Box ever.”
On Saturday, July 20 at 4 p.m., children will have the opportunity to hear Rabbi Berkowitz read her book, and make their own beautiful things box at Hevreh of Southern Berkshire in Great Barrington.
Weather permitting, children and their adults will go on a found object art nature walk in Hevreh’s backyard, then return to the synagogue to do some creative crafting together and enjoy a hands-on Havdalah and some sweet Shabbat treats.
IF YOU GO
Sponsor: Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, PJ Library, Jewish Federation of the Berkshires
Date & Time: Saturday, July 20 at 4:00 p.m.
Venue: Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, 270 State Road, Great Barrington
Cost: FREE, but books will be available for sale
Advance reservations suggested for this event to ensure there are enough materials and snacks for all.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (413) 528-6378