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HOME . What's New? . STORIES . ARTICLES . RESOURCES

Articles about Hasidic Stories and Storytelling

Articles in this collection:

Background and Sources of Hasidic Stories
Hasidic Theories of Storytelling.
Themes Found in Hasidic Stories
Studies of the mystical spirituality revealed in Hasidic stories.
Learning from Hasidic Stories
Articles that seek lessons for our contemporary lives.
Interpreting Individual Stories
Preparing and Telling Hasidic Stories

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Background and Sources of Hasidic Stories

A Brief Introduction to Hassidic Tales
Arising in a time of crisis, the Hasidic movement gave rise to stories of tzaddiks, their teachings, and their ability to change our hearts.
Life Stories: Shivhei Ha-Besht by Moshe Rosman
Shivhei Ha-Besht, or "In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov," is the earliest published collection of stories about the founder of Hasidism. In this essay, Moshe Rosman takes a new look at the question, "What can these stories teach us about the actual life of the Baal Shem Tov?"
Life Stories: Gedolim Ma'aseh Zaddikim by Moshe Rosman
Gedolim Ma'aseh Zaddikim is an early collection of stories about the Baal Shem Tov. In this essay, Moshe Rosman shows that these stories may be more historical and less legendary than some other early collections - and, in fact, may change our understanding of the nature of the Baal Shem Tov's contributions.
The Nigun in a Hasidic Story by Peninnah Schram.
This introduction to Schram's story, The Nigun (The Melody), discusses the role of music in Hasidism, as well as Schram's experiences learning and telling a story/song.

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Hasidic Theories of Storytelling

The Bratslav Theory of the Sacred Tale, by Arnold J. Band.
In this important essay, Band demonstrates that Rabbi Nahman and his disciples believed in the spiritual power of holy stories to change the universe. "The tales have a specific therapeutic, cosmic function: They redeem souls from the empty space."
Storytelling and Spirituality in Judaism by Yitzhak Buxbaum.
Buxbaum describes Hasidic traditions about the importance and uses of storytelling, and suggests implications for contemporary Judaism as a whole.
Tales of the Tzaddikim by Rabbi Gedaliah Fleer and Alan Afterman
This is a translation and commentary of an important passage from Rebbe Nachman about the spiritual significance of the act of storytelling.

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Themes Found in Hasidic Stories

Studies of the mystical spirituality revealed in Hasidic stories.

Magic, Mysticism, and Hasidism: Introduction, by Gedalyah Nigal.
The Hasidic movement spread largely because of its emphasis on stories. And Hasidic stories have always included a varied palette of supernatural themes.
Transmigration of Souls: Part One by Gedalyah Nigal.
Transmigration of Souls: Part Two
Nigal's important essay on gilgul, or transmigration of souls, as it relates to Hasidic stories - including numerous short versions of Hasidic stories. A two-part excerpt from Nigal's book, Magic, Mysticism, and Hasidism.

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Learning from Hasidic Stories

Articles that seek lessons for our contemporary lives.

About the Legends of the Baal Shem Tov by Rabbi Eliahu Klein
Klein describes the cognitive, historical, emotional, and personal settings within which he responds to stories about Hasidism's founding figure. "When I read a tale, being fully entertained is the first consideration. However, as a Jewish seeker, I wish to receive some insight or teaching concerning some event or great person. This is what I get from the Baal Shem Tov and other masters of Chasidism."
New! Are Stories An Antidote? by Doug Lipman
A letter from a fan of storytelling got Lipman thinking about the overall impact of certain kinds of stories. Is it possible that stories can help us find a balance between dealing with harsh realities and maintaining our spiritual integrity? These thoughts led to some new ideas about how to present Lipman's storytelling recordings.
Story Wrestling: Healing Through Telling Hasidic Stories.
Much has been written about the power of Hasidic stories for transforming the listener. But what about their effect on the one who tells them? Doug Lipman describes an ongoing experiment in healing.
Tents in the Wilderness by Susan Yael Mesinai
"The deepest and the most obvious" truths are transmitted through Hasidic stories. "The story represents another way of knowing. It addresses itself, not to our hunger for information, but to the need to confirm what we already know."
The Virtual Rebbe by Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro
Subtitled "The Teaching and Practice of Reb Yerachmiel ben Yisrael," this essay incorporates the teachings of a fictional rebbe, the author's ideal self. It uses original Hasidic stories to help present Rabbi Shapiro's approach to several topics of spirituality, including meditation, prayer, the purpose of human life, the relationship of good and evil, thoughts on "Zen Judaism," and the author's "five pillars" of serious Judaism.

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Interpreting Individual Stories

Commentary on "The King and the Emperor" by Arnold J. Band
According to Band, this story of cunning and adventure on the journey back home actually portrays the return of the Shekhinah, a part of the divine presence, back to her home.
Commentary on "The King and the Wise Man" by Arnold J. Band.
Band interprets Rabbi Nachman's story as a comic exploration of the paradox: if the world is imperfect, can its Creator be perfect?
Evil in the World: A Discourse on a Hassidic Tale by Laura Simms.
Simms' beautiful essay probes her reactions to a disturbing Hassidic tale. Simms includes the complete story as well as an interpretation that is both universal and unusually personal.

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Preparing and Telling Hasidic Stories

Letting the Story Choose Me, by Doug Lipman
During performances, images from Hasidic stories seemed to pop up in Lipman's mind. Every time he trusted enough to tell the story that presented itself, he was rewarded by a deep response from at least one listener. One day, however, a story seemed to take over a performance, and no one stepped forward to say, "That story was for me."
The Responsibility of Choosing by Marthajoy Aft
How can you choose a Hasidic story which will meet the needs of a congregation, a storyteller, and the High Holidays?
Finding the Heart of the Story
One storyteller's process for preparing a Hasidic tale for performance.

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