Sev­en Good Years: A Yid­dish Folktale

  • Review
By – March 21, 2023

Tuvia, a hard­work­ing porter, can­not find any cus­tomers. He is reluc­tant to return home to his hun­gry wife and chil­dren with­out hav­ing earned mon­ey. How will they be able to buy food? All Tuvia can do is pray. Then, a mys­te­ri­ous old­er man appears and tells Tuvia that things are about to improve: Sev­en good years are ahead in which Tuvia and his fam­i­ly will have all their needs mirac­u­lous­ly met. At the end of those sev­en years, the man tells Tuvia, he will return to being the hard­work­ing porter he was before. Tuvia hap­pi­ly shares the news with his wife, and soon, a pile of gold appears in their yard.

When the sev­en years are up, the man vis­its Tuvia again and sees that his life is much as it was before. Tuvia explains that they have all they need to make life com­fort­able. They have used a bit of the gold to edu­cate their chil­dren, but they’ve decid­ed to give most of it to some­one in greater need. Tuvia and his fam­i­ly are reward­ed for their good­ness; they are grant­ed a life in which their needs, mod­est as they are, will always be qui­et­ly, unas­sum­ing­ly met.

An after­word reveals that the orig­i­nal sto­ry was pub­lished by I. L. Peretz in 1900. (Some back­ground about Peret­z’s life and writ­ing fol­lows.) The sto­ry is based on one of the teach­ings in Pirkei Avot: Who is wealthy? One who is con­tent with what they have.”

The sim­ple les­son is clear and charm­ing­ly told, while the accom­pa­ny­ing art is bright and attrac­tive and sup­ports the sto­ry. This book would be per­fect for use in a class­room or youth group, and it would make for an excel­lent dis­cus­sion about what is tru­ly impor­tant in life.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

Discussion Questions