Book Review: The Little Red Hen And The Passover Matzah

The Little Red Hen And The Passover Matzah, by Leslie Kimmelman

There was something a bit off about this tale. In order to explain it I will go about reviewing this book differently than I normally do, beginning with the contents of this short book of 36 pages and then discussing what about it was problematic. This book is a beast fable where the little red hen goes about doing all of the work to prepare for the Passover, planting wheat, harvesting it, and bringing it back and processing it into flour without any help from the other animals around, who simply are lazy. When the time for Passover comes and the other animals realize that they are famished and do not have food because they did not work to plant and harvest any, they come and beg the red hen to be allowed to eat, and she, after some hesitation, makes a selective quotation of principles of generosity and lets them eat, where they have to do the dishes afterward. This is then followed by a simple and straightforward recipe for making Passover Matzah with just flour and water.

What is most fundamentally wrong with this book is the way that the author misunderstands the biblical principles of generosity in a way that explains much of the Jewish errors concerning this matter and their political implications. The Bible does preach generosity, but it also preaches that this generosity is attached to work (see, for example, Ruth, Leviticus 23, Proverbs, and 2 Thessalonians, among other examples). The other animals in this book besides the little red hen are lazy for months and seek after the harvest has been made to enjoy the fruits of the labor of the industrious hen, who wrongly feels obligated and coerced to be generous to the undeserving and lazy poor, despite having given them repeated opportunities to work and to earn a fair wage and share in the labor of planting and harvesting. It seems likely that this misunderstanding is not unique to the author alone, and that it serves as a clue to the terrible politics that contemporary Jews have concerning the proper recipients of generosity and the response that people should have to freeloaders within society, those who desire to eat but who have no motivation to work.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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