By Jeffrey Spitz Cohan.
After becoming a vegetarian, the famed Jewish novelist Franz Kafka saw a fish in a pond and said to him, “Now I can look you in the eye.”
I was reminded of Kafka’s poignant quote in reading Beth Levine’s “The Spirit’s Message,” a lovely short story about two vegan siblings who not only look animals in the eye – they talk with them.
Jewish readers will notice several parallels to our text and our traditions in Levine’s story, which is published in book form. Beth told me she didn’t consciously incorporate Jewish themes into the story; but if that’s so, then it shows us how deeply Torah archetypes are embedded in our Jewish subconscious.
One of the siblings, Sara, is 13-years-old when she is sent into the woods with her younger brother to receive “The Spirit’s Message.”
Previous “b’nei mitzvah” received only partial or watered-down versions of the message. But because of their kindness to animals, Sara and her brother are deemed worthy of receiving the real thing.
The animals give them a vegan meal in a location that is reminiscent of the Garden of Eden.
Sara and her brother return to their village as messiahs, with the message that we should be living in peace with the animals, not killing or exploiting them. As a Jewish reader, you’ll recognize the echo of our Prophet Isaiah, who envisioned the Messianic Era as one in which even the lion will lay down with the lamb and eat straw like the ox.
The siblings are in fact delivering the message of The Spirit, a.k.a. God. The second command God gives to human beings in the Torah – in Genesis 1:29 – is to eat plants, exclusively.
I don’t want to spoil the ending. Suffice it to say, the siblings’ message was not well-received by everyone. At Jewish Veg, we can relate.
I would recommend this book for readers aged 10 or older.
In the Jewish Veg Shop, we sell the book “Happy Animals,” which is perfect for a younger audience. If the young person in your life has already read “Happy Animals” or has aged out, “The Spirit’s Message” comes with our recommendation.
Levine accurately conveys the message.
“The Spirit’s Message: A Story About Living Kindly” was written by Beth Levine and published by Who Chains You Books.