The Donkey and the Garden by Devora Busheri
Illustrator: Menahem Halberstadt
When Akiva and his wife Rachel walk past a school one morning, Akiva looks in sadly. Unlike the children, he has never learned to read or write.
‘Wouldn’t you like to go inside and learn with them?’ Rachel asks. But Akiva fears the children will laugh at him.
Rachel has an idea. She buys a donkey, plants a garden on its back and insists that she and Akiva take it with them to market. When they arrive, people laugh and point at such an unusual sight. The following morning, when Akiva refuses to join the children at school, Rachel suggests they go back to the market. Once again, the donkey attracts attention and laughter. On the third morning, Akiva refuses school again and returns to the market with Rachel and the donkey. But this time, nobody laughs or points. Instead, people come to take a closer look at the donkey, pick flowers from its back and pluck grapes from its vine. Finally, Akiva realizes what Rachel has been trying to tell him.
Akiva enrolls in the school. He soon gets over his nerves and the children get used to his presence. He studies so hard that eventually he becomes a great scholar – the famous Rabbi Akiva who is still revered today.
This is a beautifully told story, based on Midrash Hagadol, about how Rabbi Akiva overcame his fear of embarrassment to go from humble shepherd to legendary Jewish leader, with a little help from his clever wife and a donkey with a garden on its back.
Year first published: 2021