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The world in a whisper: stories by David Mazel

My Heart's World, by David Mazel. Wild Rose, Wis.: Phunn Publishers. 144 pp. $8.95. Some people live in quiet places of grandfathers, angels, dances, and hopes -- a world of very gentle language. Such a person is David Mazel, who describes his world in a whisper, with these 51 stories from his life.

Raised in an Orthodox Jewish family, Mazel was surrounded by kind old men with long white beards, rabbis, and others who spent their lives poring over holy books in candlelit rooms. One, Uncle Izzy, was different from the rest: ``He was a husky, restless man who didn't fancy books or staying indoors. What he enjoyed, besides working his farm in upstate New York, was going out into the woods on a fine crisp day and hunting.''

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Mazel was nine when he went to visit Izzy. His uncle gave him a gun and told him to shoot a chipmunk. Mazel was confused. How could he disappoint his uncle? And yet, realizing he was more like the rest of his family, he said no. His ending was happy. ``From that day forward, I was honored among chipmunks.''

One of the nicest is ``A Story of Hope.'' Mazel visits his grandfather, a man he hadn't seen in years. His grandfather was a tailor in America; in Israel, he became a shepherd. He explains his transition: ``You could say, David, that I was no longer happy with the seam of my life. So I ripped out all the stitches and I started over.''

He chose to be a shepherd on a kibbutz, so offered his services. The young people didn't think an old tailor would know about sheep. ``But I said to them that if a man has spent his life making and mending garments, many of them wool, did they think that the sheep would not know, when he touched them, that here were hands that had made beautiful things from wool; here were hands that had honored them? Did they think that the sheep would not follow, anywhere, a man with God-given hands for sheep?'' So they accepted him.

Mazel's stories are moments of calm in the midst of more frequent worlds of violence.

Esther Cohen is managing director of Adama Books and the author of ``No Charge for Looking.''

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