Excerpt from Swords and Scrolls and interview with the author (yours truly :))

Would you like to read an excerpt from my Chanuka novel, Swords and Scrolls? Tachlis Magazine published an excerpt and a Q&A with the author (that’s me :)) in this week’s issue.

Enjoy, and share with friends and family! Happy Chanuka!

New release: The Lonely Shul by Rabbi Meir Uri Gottesman

Rabbi Meir Uri Gottesman is one of my favorite writers. His novels are infused with Torah and spirituality. I’m very excited about his new book for tweens, The Lonely Shul. Here’s the publisher’s description:

The Lonely Shul is a book for tweens like none other, written in beloved author Meir Uri Gottesman’s matchless style. It is full of imagination, humor, and action, but above all, overflows with simple, pure yiras Shamayim, ready to be poured into the hearts of its readers-young and not-so-young alike!

Can’t wait to read it!

Book recommendation: Navi Illustrated

We just got the second volume in the Navi Illustrated series, and started reading it this morning. These are graphic novels that incorporate the full text of the Prophets, both in Hebrew and in English, along with illustrations and dialog based on traditional commentaries. The first two volumes cover the story of Gideon from Shoftim. My children enjoy these books — it’s a fun way to learn Navi. The books are available from Feldheim (which currently has a Chanuka sale of 20% off).

Happy Chanuka!

The situation was impossible. The odds were next to none. The most powerful army in the world against a rag tag bunch of Jewish rebels who’d never held a weapon in their lives. And yet, they felt they had no other choice. They had to take a stand.

They won the war — because G-d was fighting their battles. In Haneiros Hallalu that we sing while lighting the Chanuka menorah, we thank G-d “for the miracles and wonders, for the salvations and the battles that You performed for our forefathers in those days at this time, through the hand of Your holy kohanim.” The kohanim were an instrument, a vessel through which the miracle took place. That was their greatness — that they were able to give up their own identities and become the agents of G-d’s will in this world. Kohanim, descendants of Aharon, who are lovers of peace. Kohanim, who strictly observe the laws of ritual purity and stay far away from death’s touch, not attending funerals except for close relatives, not visiting cemeteries. Those holy people overcame their natural inclinations and did what they felt was right. By giving up their own desires, they allowed G-d to take charge. And once G-d is fighting the battles nothing is impossible.

Sometimes, when the world seems enveloped in darkness, we feel powerless to make a difference. But we can remind ourselves that it is G-d Who is fighting our battles. We don’t need to worry about our odds. We just need to do what’s right, whether or not it comes naturally to us.

May the light of our Chanuka candles illuminate the world with Divine light! Happy Chanuka!

Book recommendations: Chanuka novels

I find that my family learns most from novels. The following Chanuka novels are engaging, suspenseful, and full of information.

Ages 8-12:

The Stone of the Altar by Meir Baram follows Yehuda Hamaccabee as he and his young friend fight the Greeks and light the menorah.

In The Burning Light by Betsy Ramsay and Elizabeth Ramsay, two children go back in time and experience the events of Chanuka. The book closely follows the Books of Maccabees.

Ages 12 and up

For older children, there are two novels I mentioned previously in this post.

I am getting some positive feedback about my novel, Swords and Scrolls. Here’s what somebody wrote this morning (completely unsolicited on my part):

“The book is totally amazing. Kids and adults alike had been glued to the book from start to finish. Many interesting topics for conversation post reading as well.”

If you haven’t yet had a chance to check it out, here’s the link again: Swords and Scrolls. Hope you enjoy it!

Books on Chanuka history

These books are non-fiction. They are great sources for learning more about the history of Chanuka, for teens and adults. Since the story of Chanuka took place after the sealing of the Tanach, this is the only holiday that is not mentioned in the Tanach. Thus, our information about Chanuka history comes from the Apocrypha — texts written in Biblical style but not included in the Tanach. The ones most relevant to Chanuka are the Books of Maccabees 1 and 2. In Five Glorious Brothers, Rabbi Pinchas Stolper presents a very readable English translation of the Books of Maccabees 1 and 2, together with background information.

In Hidden Lights, Rabbi Stolper delves deeper into the story of Chanuka, providing more historical background along with an original thought-provoking analysis.

Inside Chanukah by Rabbi Aryeh Pinchas Strikoff is a comprehensive volume on everything Chanuka related. It includes historical background and a number of later sources that discuss Chanuka, both in Hebrew and in English translation.

I highly recommend all three books for anyone interested in a closer and deeper look at the story of Chanuka.

Book recommendation: Miracle Lights by Shazak

In our first year of homeschooling, we put together a Chanuka play, together with other homeschooling families. Our actors and actresses were young back then, and we wanted to use a script that they could relate to. After some searching, we decided to base our script on Shazak’s Miracle Lights. It’s a graphic novel which retells the story of Chanuka in contemporary terms. The children loved it, and the Chanuka play was a resounding success. Hope you enjoy Miracle Lights as much as we did!

New releases for Chanuka, and notes on the Chanuka book list

I saw two recently released Chanuka books. My family and I haven’t read them yet, but I thought I’d let you know about them. And if anyone has read them and can provide more information please do so in the comments, or email me privately.

Sparks of Truth by Eliezer Hameiri and Just Imagine! We Beat the Greeks by M. Safra. Both look good!

Also, I added notes to the Chanuka book list, with short descriptions and approximate age range recommendations. Hope you find them helpful!