An old Jewish folktale set in Afghanistan tests the faith and character of both a wealthy shah and a poor man.
In old Kabul, the good shah leaves his lavish home disguised as a servant to discover whether the people of his country are “sad or happy, rich or poor, foolish or wise.” In the poorest part of town, he encounters a young Jewish couple happily welcoming the Sabbath. Impressed with their attitude despite their humble circumstances, the shah questions the man’s livelihood and decides to secretly challenge his never-failing faith by creating a series of decrees that will hamper the man’s ability to earn “puli,” or money. Each time, though, the former shoemaker succeeds in finding new work as a water carrier, woodcutter and royal guard. When, as a guard, the young Jew is made royal executioner and must cut off the head of a thief, both faith and wit save the day, and the shah finally understands the Jew’s true ability to wisely carve out his path in life. Detailed, gently humorous paintings reflect the colorful richness of the Afghani traditional rugs, robes and turbans set against sandy mountainous backdrops.
This tale of perseverance and confidence is told with well-researched authenticity and offers a positive view of this war-torn nation. (author’s note) (Folktale. 5-8)