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Features of the Month
What's New?

The Baal Shem Tov
Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev
Other Early Rebbes
Later Rebbes
Rabbi Pesach Mendel
Stories of Our Times

Background and Sources
Hasidic Theories of Storytelling
Themes in Hasidic Stories
Learning from Hasidic Stories
Interpreting Individual Stories
Preparing and Telling

The Soul of Hope

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Features of the Month

On the Hasidic Stories Home Page

Every month, this page features an article or story by a contemporary storyteller, rabbi, or other authority on Hasidic stories.

August, 2003
Young Rabbi Pesach Mendel is deeply in love. Yet his soon-to-be fiancee seems to expect their relationship to be more than it is. Could their love turn into the divine union it had been fated to be? What causes the young rabbi's sudden, life-threatening illness? How could Tisha BeAv, the holiday that mourns great tragedies in Jewish history, be the backdrop for a love story? Angels Feel No Sorrow takes on the themes of love, grieving, relationships between men and women, and our human ability to change and grow.

April-July, 2003
No features.

March, 2003
The young rabbi climbs high up the mountain to pray - and finds a surprise that will change his life. What is the role he must assume, for the good of the world? What is the meaning of the silk pillow with the two strange buttons? How could those puzzles possibly be related? The Buttons on the Mountain is a new story of joy, the human role in creation, and the passing of the torch from one leader to another.

February, 2003
The powerful landowner has died, and left a will instructing his son to take property from the Jews. Understandably, Rabbi Pesach Mendel is angry. But has the old sire really betrayed the Jews? Why is his manservant knocking, late at night, at the rabbi's door? The Man-Servant's Tale is an dramatic story of difficult decisions, of determination, and of the cleverness and strength of women.

January, 2003
What happened, to keep the Rabbi Simcha Bunam's Hasidim up all night? What about Yitzchak, the youngest and the most strict about what Hasidim should do? How did the rabbi loosen the yoke Yitzchak had made for himself? What Stories Should a Hasid Tell? is a lighthearted excursion into teaching, storytelling, and the importance of joy.

December, 2002
What hurtful thing has the rabbi done? Why can't he make it right? How does a little girl help him find the way to "turn back"? Can You See the Turning? is a story not only of repentance, but also of listening to children, assembling the story of everyone involved, and the power and problems of community.

November, 2002
A little girl, the only survivor of a forest fire, sits silently, week after week. What is it about the rabbi's sermon that finally causes her to speak? The Girl of the Flame is a new story of hope and healing, for Hanukkah and any time that life seems to scorch your soul.

October 2002
If the Baal Shem Tov is so kind and generous, why is this founder of the Hasidic movement eating everything owned by a poor family? A Small Miracle is a story about asking for help - perfect for Rosh Hoshanah and for any time we need to reach beyond our own resources.

September, 2002
In the middle of Yom Kippur services, the stranger gets up to leave. Why? How can the rabbi keep him "in the fold"? What does this have to do with the rabbi's wife's story of two boys and a wild cat? The Kitten is a story of inclusion and listening for the High Holy Days - and year around.

August, 2002
Why is the Rabbi digging frantically in the ground? What does that have to do with a confrontation a hundred years later during World War II? What About the Daughters? is a modern story about prophecy, compassion, and the power of a prayer to avert violence.

June-July, 2002
Why will no one help the rabbi put out the fire? When his Hasidic ways alienate the most powerful members of his new congregation, how will young Rabbi Pesach Mendel keep his post? What does all this have to do with angels and the Exodus? The Fire of Joy is an original Hasidic story that takes up the themes of triumph and mourning - and of persistent love in the face of hate-filled opponents.

May, 2002
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev was known as "The Merciful." So why does the rabbi refuse to bless the innkeeper's proposed journey? Could it be that the rabbi, a renowned man of peace, is resorting to violence? Defending His Property is a warm story that, in a small way, takes up the question, "Who do I become, when I defend myself with force?"

April, 2002
When the entire village is divided into feuding groups, how can a young rabbi bring peace? And what could dancing and singing have to do with it? (Hint: It helps if the rabbi's wife has insight into the psychology of the arguing factions.) The Angry Dancers is a light-hearted story of conflict resolution by Doug Lipman

March, 2002
Why are the rabbi's last words so important? What effect will one person's inaction have on the world as a whole? The Dark Passover is a story of redemption that arises from the deepest moment of despair - and a classic metaphor for the power of storytelling itself.

February, 2002
Who is the stranger being buried? Why was he found in the holy forest? What happened between him and the town's old rabbi, so many years ago? The Wanderer's Funeral is an original tale of mysticism, ecology, and healing.

January, 2002
Who is the wealthy man who comes to see the Baal Shem Tov - but does not ask him a question? The great rebbe tells him a story, but what is the story's ending? Will the tragic past be repeated in this lifetime? Or will the story of The Blood Brothers open another possibility?

December, 2001
Why is Rabbi Zusya taking his devoted Hasid to the deserted hills? What do two strangers - who share no common language - have to do with defending Rabbi Zusya against his opponents? Who is actually being taught The Lesson?

November, 2001
The rabbi approaches the river, alone in the center of town at mid-day. Where is everyone? Why is the rabbi's life in danger? The River Mystery combines suspense with the social background of Eastern European Jewry - and a sense of faith under trial.

October, 2001
Rabbi Pesach Mendel is facing a villager with a thorny problem - and who asks the one question the rabbi dreads. Why does the rabbi respond by picking up an apple from his desk? And then why does he begin a strange story about a wailing beggar...and the Magic Fruit?

September, 2001
Why did the rabbi keep listening, even though he knew the anwser? What about the rabbi who did not know the answer; was he any use? A pair of Hasidic stories about listening:
  1. The Shortest Way
  2. The Perfect Advice

August, 2001
How can two holy men survive in the same small town? Is it trouble when a second shop opens up across the street from the store you own? A pair of Hasidic stories about abundance:
  1. The Horse's Reflection
  2. The Goose and the Rooster

July, 2001
The rabbi is trying to study. But how can anyone study, with all this laughing and shrieking? In The Children Playing, Rabbi Pesach Mendel (a fictititous rabbi) finds himself pondering a different holy text from the one he intended.

June, 2001
What matters more, what you do or why you do it? A pair of stories about Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev, portraying his attitude toward intention in prayer:
  1. The Return
  2. The Cantor Who Lost His Voice

May, 2001
Two rabbis are imprisoned in a dark cell. Why won't one help the other? What does this have to do with styles of leadership? A traditional Hasidic story, The Prison, has been expanded and re-written by Sharon Humphries-Brooks.

April, 2001
Why won't the rabbi do his duties? Each person in the village asks him to bless the matzah, but he gives them all the same answer - except for one.This month's feature is On Strike, a story about the fictional rabbi, Rabbi Pesach Mendel.

March, 2001
Why is the rabbi's wife dancing with a doll? What does her dancing have to do with the time the rabbi lost his temper? This month's story introduces Rabbi Pesach Mendel, a fictitious rabbi from the mind of Doug Lipman - and the lesson he learns from a Wheat Doll.

February, 2001
This month features a complete re-design of this site: a new look, more convenient navigation, and an easier to read format. You can now search the site - for the name of a story, an author, a holiday, a particular rebbe, etc. And it's easier to move from article to article and story to story - they each feature a "next story (article)" link.

January, 2001
Hearing the Music
Why does the rabbi writhe when he hears the elderly former-cantor sing a prayer? An original story about Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev.
December, 2000
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.
November, 2000
The Two Generals
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev tells a parable to help a hasid recognize the love of God in an impious man.
October, 2000
The Missing Brother
Did you know that the famous brothers Rabbi Elimelekh and Rabbi Zusia had a long-lost, third brother? In honor of Rosh Hashanah, this tale of sincere penitence describes their tearful reunion. But they do not shed tears of joy!
August-September, 2000
The Prince Who Thought He Was a Turkey, by Gedaliah Fleer
Rabbi Gedaliah Fleer adds a distinctive flavor to this classic tale by Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav. When the Prince decides he is not a person but a turkey, what wisdom can heal his delusion?
May-July, 2000
Another pair of stories about Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev, highlighting his attitude toward criticism of others:
  1. The Rabbi's Smile
  2. The Rabbi's Blessing

April, 2000
The Wind by Schlomo Carlebach and Susan Yael Mesinai.
A timeless Hasidic tale of respect for natural forces - and their relationship to holy wisdom.
March, 2000
Rabbi Gershon's Dream
A rare tale about the Baal Shem Tov and his brother-in-law, who has a dream that teaches him to find the holiness close at hand.
February, 2000
A pair of stories about Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev, famous for his compassionate insight:
  1. Pursuit
  2. Loosening the Stopper

January, 2000
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."
December, 1999
Reb Baruch's Tallit by Schlomo Carlebach and Susan Yael Mesinai.
Which is the holy way, the way of restraint or the way of ecstasy? Perhaps the two ways meet in this story from the late Schlomo Carlebach.
November, 1999
The Baal Shem Tov and the Doctor, by Doug Lipman
In this new tale, a famous doctor challenges the Baal Shem Tov to a contest of healing. When it is his turn, the Baal Shem Tov asks, "Have you ever lost something very valuable?" Then the healing begins.
October, 1999
The Rich Man, adapted by Gedaliah Fleer from the stories of Rebbe Nachman
"One day a rich man decided to let others benefit from his wealth." So begins this parable adapted from the famous Bretslaver teaching tales.
September, 1999
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."
August, 1999
A story and its commentary:

July, 1999
A series of three stories about questions:

  1. Who Has the Answer?, in which students are sent to Reb Zusia with a question he claims to know nothing about;
  2. What is the Problem?, in which the questions of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter address the root causes of a Hasid's joblessness, and
  3. How Do We Know? in which the Baal Shem Tov gives his students a question they can use to test another rebbe's authenticity.

May/June, 1999
Under the Bed, by Schlomo Carlebach and Susan Yael Mesinai
"A soul who needs fixing has to come back into the world and look for a zaddik to help him. Naturally, if he was close to one while he was alive he will have no problem, because his soul is still attached to that zaddik. But what happens to a person who was never attached to a zaddik during his lifetime?"
April, 1999
The Chandelier, by Gedalia Fleer
Rebbe Nachman told this parable of a master craftsman. When he showed a particular work to the other chandelier makers, they all had criticism - which told more about them than about him.
February/March, 1999
Letting the Story Choose Me, by Doug Lipman
During performances, images from Hasidic stories seemed to pop up in Lipman's mind. If he told the story that popped up, 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."
January, 1999
The King and the Emperor by Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav
This is a prime example of Rebbe Nachman's original genre, "The Hasidic Fairy Tale." It features a bold and clever princess. Translated by Arnold J. Band.
December, 1998
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.
October/November, 1998
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. An excerpt from Rosman's Founder of Hasidism: A Quest for the Historical Ba'al Shem Tov.
September, 1998
Life Stories: Shivhei Ha-Besht
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?" An Excerpt from Rosman's Founder of Hasidism: A Quest for the Historical Ba'al Shem Tov.
August, 1998
The Forgotten Story
The classic tale of the Baal Shem Tov's storyteller, who, after his teacher's death, tells the tale that only he can tell.
July, 1998
Transmigration of Souls: Part Two by Gedalyah Nigal
Part two of Nigal's important essay on gilgul, or transmigration of souls, as it relates to Hasidic stories - including numerous short versions of Hasidic stories. An excerpt from Nigal's book, Magic, Mysticism, and Hasidism.
June, 1998
Transmigration of Souls: Part One by Gedalyah Nigal
Part one of Nigal's important essay on gilgul, or transmigration of souls, as it relates to Hasidic stories - including numerous short versions of Hasidic stories. An excerpt from Nigal's book, Magic, Mysticism, and Hasidism.
May, 1998
The Baal Shem Tov Reveals Himself and Prayers That Were Sung in the Fields
Two stories of the Baal Shem Tov, both from the classic story collection, Mimekor Yisrael, by Micha Joseph Bin Gorion. The first story shows the Baal Shem Tov as an apparently ignorant villager at the moment of revealing his great holiness. The second tells of the Baal Shem Tov's explanation why one of his hasidim had to spend the holiest day of the year alone.
March/April, 1998
Magic, Mysticism, and Hasidism: Introduction, by Gedalyah Nigal.
This piece, selected from the introduction to Nigal's book, gives a brief summary of its main themes.
February, 1998
The Nigun (The Melody) by Peninnah Schram.
In this story/song, a young Hasid values a joyful melody above money.
January, 1998
The Son of Rabbi Adam: A Tale of the Baal Shem Tov by storyteller Doug Lipman.
This excerpt from Lipman's Hasidic epic, The Soul of Hope, portrays two young men who experiment with mystical forces that, once unleashed, may prove too powerful.
December, 1997
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.
November, 1997
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.
October, 1997
Stories and Parables for Rosh Hashanah-Yom Kippur by Rabbi Eliahu J. Klein
Arranged and adapted from original Hebrew sources, these half-dozen stories will help to deepen our experience of our Holydays. Includes: "Praying for your life," "Linking with the spirit," "From the Depths of the Heart," "The Disappearing Shofar," "The Last Shofar of the Rizhiner," and "The Power of Forgiveness: A Zohar Legend."
September, 1997
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?


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This page was last updated on Tuesday, August 5, 2003
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