נעלי הזהב של המלך
מאת: נורית יובל / איורים: שי צ'רקה
The King’s Golden Shoes / Nurit Yuval Illustrations: Shai Charka
A rhyming rendition of an amusing tale about the Wise Men of Chelm, that shows how paying excessive attention to appearance and status symbols can lead to absurd situations. The story, illustrated by Shai Charka, introduces young children to the “Wisdom of Chelm,” one of the most celebrated examples of Jewish folklore, and explores how to bestow honor—and how to receive it.
Jewish folklore features many tales of the wise men of Chelm, set against the background of life in the town of Chelm in Poland, some 200 years ago. These tales were passed on orally, with multiple versions of the same tale, and were collected and anthologized by Shalom Aleichem, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and other authors. The wise men of Chelm are fools who concoct absurd solutions to the problems facing their community. Isaac Bashevis Singer ended his chronicles of Chelm with this statement: “The whole world is one great Chelm.” Perhaps the Chelm stories are so beloved and amusing precisely because each of us, at times, behaves in ways that aren’t rational or sensible.
“Whosoever pursues honor, honor flees from him” (Mesilat Yesharim 26)
The story of the king of Chelm’s golden shoes explores with a mixture of humor and irony the ways in which we bestow and receive honor, and raises broader questions regarding the issue of honor. Why is the king not treated with the honor his title deserves? What happens to a person or society that gets caught up in the external trappings of honor? Jewish tradition addresses the issue of honor in great depth. Numerous sources admonish us that to chase after honor makes a person behave contemptibly, and that one should be more careful of others’ honor and less preoccupied with one’s own.
Activities You Can Do at Home
- Flip through the book, paying particular attention to the illustrations by Shai Charka. How did the illustrator choose to depict the behavior of the people of Chelm? You might ask your children to suggest other ways that the people of Chelm could have conveyed honor and esteem for their
- What makes you laugh? The Chelm stories paint human behavior in a ridiculous and amusing light. Similar tales -- about Jucha, Hershele, and Chusham -- appear in different cultures. Do you know any stories about these characters? You can look at home or at the library for more collections of humorous folktales and share them with your
- Spread a towel or rag on the floor, to symbolize the mud in Chelm’s streets, and use simple costumes and props (shoes, hats, scarves) to act out the
- The people of Chelm look for a way to distinguish the king from the rest of the townspeople, because it’s important that he “be honored at his full value.” After you read the story, discuss the value of deeds vs. status and honor. Ask your children what they think makes someone worthy of being honored?
- After reading the story, your children could try being “King for a Day.” A pretty scarf or shawl can be made into a robe; they can borrow mom’s or dad’s shoes; you could work together to make a crown. How does it feel to be like the king in the story? How do the onlookers (you--their parents!) honor him?
We wish you happy reading and great conversation!