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Maybe It Happened This Way: Bible Stories Reimagined

Take a fresh look at the Bible stories you think you know, retold using the Jewish concept of midrash.
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This spirited collection will make the Jewish people’s beginnings tangible to today’s readers. --KIRKUS REVIEWS

Take a fresh look at the Bible stories you think you know, retold using the Jewish concept of midrash.

Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Moses. We think we know their stories, but the Bible tells us only part of it. What if we could see the full picture?
Maybe we’d discover that…
…Adam and Eve were challenging the rules, growing up. 

…Noah felt fearful and angry, desperate for any kind of hope. 

…Abraham and Sarah gleefully, recklessly smashed idols in his father’s workshop, and were stunned by a revelation that would change their world. 

…Moses could not imagine that the Israelites would want to follow him, and felt dread at being asked to lead. 

Maybe these iconic figures of the Bible were people just like us, filled with fear and joy, jealousy and passion, mischief and love. 

Maybe it happened this way. 

This is a modern take on Bible stories, with relatable characters; not earnest and reverent, but not transgressive either. It explores timeless themes of interest to kids, including fairness, sibling rivalry, perseverance, forgiveness, courage. Maybe It Happened This Way also covers many lesser-known narratives and lifts up the stories of women in the Bible as well. 

Includes an introduction explaining of the Jewish concept of midrash--stories created to add new layers to our understanding of the Bible; a discussion guide with questions; an index of values; and a guide to sources for each Bible story.

Includes an introduction explaining of the Jewish concept of midrash: stories created to add new layers to our understanding of the Bible; a discussion guide with questions; an index of values; and a guide to sources for each Bible story.
Adam and Eve Grow Up

She opened her eyes and saw a big smile and an outstretched hand.

A sound issued from the smile. "Hi. I'm Adam. Let me show you around the Garden of Eden."

So she took Adam's hand and followed him.

there was an abundance of everything in this garden . . .

"What are those sounds?"

Adam tilted his head and listened. "Those tweet tweets are birds. I named them." He sounded proud of himself, which made her smile. . .

She continued her questions. "Why is that great big light in the sky moving?"

"It's the sun. It goes across the garden in the day, then at night is disappears, and a bunch of smaller lights appear. Well, one sort of medium-sized light and a bunch of smaller ones."


"They just do." 

"How do the fruits we eat appear on the trees?"

"God provides."

"Who is God?"

"God is our creator. God made this garden, and God made me. God made all the animals, which I named. The God made you to keep me company." He squeezed her hand and smiled again.

She did not smile. She frowned. She didn't know yet what there could be to do, but surely she couldn't be there just to give Adam someone to show around the garden. Surely if that were all, one of these other animals--the wolf or the horse or the mouse, whatever they were--would be fine. . ."

What Is Midrash?

Introduction: Maybe It Happened This Way

Chapter 1: Adam and Eve Grow Up

Chapter 2: Noah’s Hope

Chapter 3: Go Forth and Smash the Idols!

Chapter 4: Rebecca Goes Forth

Chapter 5: Sisters Stick Together

Chapter 6: Standing at the Edge of the Pit

Chapter 7: A Matter of Life and Death

Chapter 8: Miriam Saves Her Brother

Chapter 9: Moses Sees

Chapter 10: Dancing on the Shores of the Sea

Chapter 11: Standing, Sitting, and Signing at Sinai

Chapter 12: (Don’t) Give Up Your Gold! 00 Chapter 13: Follow That Goat!

Chapter 14: Please, God, Heal Her

Chapter 15: Seeing through Caleb Eyes

Chapter 16: Moses Turns Away

Chapter 17: Why Curse When You Can Bless?

Chapter 18: Sisters Stand Up for Justice

 Chapter 19: The Remembering Song

Chapter 20: The Crowns on the Letters

Discussion Guide

Values Guide

Discussion Questions

Index of Values and Sources

Stories from the Torah, the Old Testament’s first five books, are enlivened.

A Reform rabbi and a Jewish educator use the original text, midrashim (stories that “search or explore” the original Bible), and their own creativity to reinterpret the well-known tales about Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Aaron, Miriam, and others. Sometimes they invent characters, and in the last story, they leap into the future, juxtaposing Moses writing the Torah with God telling him about the questions future people will have, even mentioning the smartphone, to show the continuing importance of Jewish learning. Though the events are familiar—the Great Flood, the departure from Egypt and the long desert sojourn—the storytelling is engaging. The biblical figures have strong personalities, and the authors make playful asides, such as a remark from God to Moses when the great leader is worried about his brother’s feelings: “When was the last time you saw Aaron happy?” Although traditionalists may not be comfortable with these adaptations, the stories make real the joy and suffering of the Jewish people during their early days. With particularly rich backmatter (including excellent discussion questions), the book will be useful for some Jewish education programs, but individual readers will also enjoy this less formal approach to the stories that have been taught in religious schools and homes and mentioned in secular literature for centuries. Simple black-and-white vignettes accompany chapter headings and are interspersed throughout.

This spirited collection will make the Jewish people’s beginnings tangible to today’s readers. (descriptions of Jewish values and the stories that relate to each value, index of values and sources) (Religious anthology. 10-13)           ---KIRKUS REVIEWS


Chil­dren are often taught sto­ries from the Bible as midrashim. These tales can be pre­sent­ed in an engag­ing yet sim­ple man­ner, allow­ing their built-in lessons to shine through. Occa­sion­al­ly thoughts, com­ments, and events are added in an attempt to bring the sto­ries to life, with the result that they are often long-remem­bered. But there can be a draw­back to this method of learn­ing. Chil­dren don’t always dis­tin­guish between the orig­i­nal sto­ries told in the Torah and these more col­or­ful, mem­o­rable ver­sions. This book and its unusu­al approach elim­i­nates that prob­lem. It explains the con­cept and uses of midrash while relat­ing the sto­ries in a relat­able and inter­est­ing way.

The authors share twen­ty tales, each clear­ly and mem­o­rably told. In intro­duc­to­ry sec­tions, the authors explain­ midrash in a way that chil­dren can under­stand, allow­ing them easy access to the deep­er, rich­er ver­sions of the sto­ries to come and elim­i­nat­ing any pos­si­ble con­fu­sion. The sto­ry of Adam and Eve, their encounter with the Ser­pent, and their expul­sion from the Gar­den of Eden receives a poignant ren­der­ing; Noah and his rela­tion­ship with his grand­son as they look toward the future feels endear­ing­ly opti­mistic; and Abra­ham’s smash­ing of his father’s idols is nuanced and com­plex. Rebec­ca, Rachel, Leah, Joseph, Ben­jamin, Moses, Aaron, Miri­am, and oth­ers make appear­ances in ways that both edu­cate and enter­tain. Not only that, the text appears along­side black and white line draw­ings that enhance under­stand­ing and clarity.

With this book, chil­dren learn that there is more than one way to tell a good sto­ry and have its lessons stick. They begin to under­stand the use­ful­ness of learn­ing about the Bible through midrashim in addi­tion to the tra­di­tion­al approach of read­ing direct­ly from its pages.

A use­ful dis­cus­sion guide con­cludes the text, hom­ing in on Jew­ish val­ues and ques­tions for fur­ther thought and dis­cus­sion. There is also an index that ties each sto­ry back to its orig­i­nal Torah source.   ---MICHAL MALEN, THE JEWISH BOOK COUNCIL