Hillel Takes a Bath
"Today, I will use this cloth to do a mitzvah!" Hillel the sage announced to his class.
He whisked the cloth off his shoulder and snapped it in the air.
Hillel's students never knew what to expect from the rabbi. A mitzvah could be an act of kindness or the observance of a ritual. What did the rabbi mean? What mysterious mitzvah could it be?
"A Jewish sage confounds his students with his surprising teaching methods in this story based on a midrash.Brandishing a "large linen cloth," Hillel announces he will show how "to do a mitzvah." His students know some of the 613 mitzvot, Torah commandments that teach people how to act. They remember how Hillel ingeniously taught the Torah to a man who wanted to learn the whole thing while standing on one foot: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.…That is the whole Torah. Now go and study." Guessing at the rabbi's intentions, the students suggest possible mitzvot: giving the cloth as tzedakah (charity), using it as a Sabbath tablecloth, or shading his parents with it. To demonstrate his lesson, Hillel shows them workers cleaning the king's statue. The king's image should be respected, but his students must understand something more important: that they "are made in God's image." He says: "When we keep ourselves clean, we honor God. And that is why taking a bath is an important mitzvah." The digital illustrations have an animation aesthetic, and the people represented have diverse skin colorings and dark hair, realistic for its ancient Middle Eastern setting. The active-learning approach will engage young readers at home or in religious classes.An appealing and effective age-appropriate introduction to some of Hillel's teachings."
— Kirkus Reviews
"This lovely, magnificently illustrated book keeps to the spirit of Hillel’s teaching by taking a higher concept and simplifying it so it can be easily understood."
— Jewish Book Council