If you were cast away on an island with just one Jewish text for company, which would you choose?
This week, Pete Martin, vice chairman of Kol Hai in Hatch End, selects The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
My choice of desert island text might seem a little odd to some, not least because it is not obviously Jewish. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint- Exupéry is one of the bestselling books in the world.
The story of loneliness, friendship, love and loss has particular poignance as it was published in 1943 at the height of the horrors of the Second World War and has a strong message against fascism and the Nazis. It was banned by the authorities in Vichy France. So what makes this, for me, a Jewish text?
Like the Torah, The Little Prince can be read, re-read and examined in detail with layers of meaning while remaining wonderfully accessible.
The Little Prince is a book I have used to teach my Bnei Mitzvah class about important Jewish values, about how to be a good person and indeed, how to be a good Jew. It shows that wisdom can be found in some of the most unexpected places.
The book has a number of important themes and, Jewishly, perhaps the most significant is that of responsibility; for our actions, for others and for tikkun olam, for healing the world. Kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh, the Talmud teaches us, that all Israel are responsible for each other.
This theme, and that of tolerance and understanding, runs through all the mini stories told in The Little Prince. We bear responsibility not only for Jews, but for all of humanity and, like the Little Prince, should tell our story so that others may follow. Incidentally, Saint-Exupéry dedicated the book to his Jewish friend, Léon Werth – “the best friend I have in the world” and it has featured on a stamp in Israel.
• Pete Martin is also the Bnei Mitzvah class teacher of HaMakom, the first progressive pluralistic cheder in the UK.