Review: Space Torah: Astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman’s Cosmic Mitzvah

Space Torah: Astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman’s Cosmic Mitzvah

by Rachelle Burk, illustrated by Craig Orback

Intergalactic Afikomen, 2024

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Stacy Nockowitz

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Space Torah tells the story of astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman, who flew into space five times between 1985 and 1996. In its opening pages, this beautiful picture book brings readers back to Hoffman’s childhood and adolescence, when his dreams of going into space begin in earnest. When he is finally able to join a space mission, he feels profound peace and gratitude in the vastness of the cosmos and thinks about God being up there with him. He even brings Jewish items with him on his missions- a siddur, a dreidel, a mezuzah. On his flight on the space shuttle Columbia, he brings a miniature Torah scroll and as he floats in zero gravity, he performs the mitzvah of reading from the Torah. Space Torah’s strength comes from the way it shows the deep connection that Hoffman feels between himself and God as he contemplates the wonders of space. Young readers will enjoy seeing how Hoffman involves the children at his synagogue in choosing what he would read while in space. The realistic illustrations capture Hoffman’s personality along with his signature mustache. They also do an excellent job of showing Hoffman’s spiritual journey as he celebrates Shabbat while orbiting Earth. Space Torah is perfect for children who show an interest in space exploration and how they, as humans, fit into our remarkable galaxy.

Space Torah should be considered for Sydney Taylor recognition. Jeffrey Hoffman’s connection to Judaism is at the center of his story. He not only brings Judaica into space; he also makes it clear that being Jewish means considering one’s place in God’s creation. The book shows Hoffman as a thoughtful, observant Jew whose spiritual life is profoundly linked to something greater than himself. Hoffman adds an afterword to the book’s text that talks about his desire to pass on the tradition of Torah to the next generation.

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Reviewer Stacy Nockowitz is a retired middle school librarian and former language arts teacher with 30+ years of experience in middle grade education. Her debut middle grade novel,
The Prince of Steel Pier (Kar-Ben), won the 2022 National Jewish Book Award and was named a Sydney Taylor Book Award Notable Book for 2023. The Prince of Steel Pier was a PJ Our Way selection for October 2022. Visit her website at: