Learning about the ways that different cultures view random events adds to our understanding of cultural diversity. Judaism adheres to a concept of tikkun olam or repairing the world. Everyone, according to this tradition, is responsible for doing their fair share to improve the world.
Gathering Sparks (written by Howard Schwartz and illustrated by Kristina Swarner, Roaring Brook Press, 2010) uses the dialogue between a grandfather and his grandchild to explore the background of this Jewish belief and also provides examples of how people can improve the world.
Kristina basic drawings skillfully capture the essential aspects of the historical basis for this complex Jewish concept. The engaging and child friendly illustrations allow younger readers to gain an understanding of a philosophical and mystical concept.
The explanation begins when the young child asks her grandfather, “Where did all the stars come from?’ In response to the question, the grandfather simplifies a mystical teaching that dates back to the teachings of Rabbi Isaac Luria who lived during the 16th century. He tells the story of 10 vessels that are similar to a fleet of ships. Each vessel is filled with light and is destined to create a perfect world. Before reaching their intended harbor, the vessels shatter. Stars are created throughout the sky and sparks of light fall everywhere. According to this teaching, people were created so that they could gather all of these sparks by doing good deeds. After all of the shards are collected, three things will occur:
- The world will be repaired.
- The 10 original vessels will be put back together.
- There will be worldwide peace.
- Sydney Taylor Book Award
- Hebrew vocabulary- tikkun olam
- Learning about cultural diversity and acknowledging other beliefs
- Monotheism- belief in one God
- Polytheism- belief in multiple gods
- Life in 16th century
- Myths and mystical traditions
- Cause and effect relationships
- Responsibility for others and the environment
- Sharing our feelings
- How earlier traditions affect modern life
- Can you share other picture books that focus on cause and effect relationships in life?