Storytelling has always been integral to Chassidism, the mystical Jewish movement that began in the early 18th century and swept across Eastern Europe over the following two centuries. Chassidic tales were not just a means of capturing the imagination of the estimated eleven million Jews for whom Yiddish was the primary language before WWII, but also a tool for teaching moral and spiritual lessons. Those tales continue to be an essential feature of the religious life of contemporary Chassidim.
But the traditional Chassidic stories translated here depart from the usual vignettes and fables that have previously been available to English readers. Instead of didactic anecdotes, the tales retold here capture the full richness - the disparate characters, the tensions, the humor, wisdom and human struggle--of the classic Chassidic narrative. Readers of these tales will smile in appreciation of Rebbe's wit, cherish a surprising Chssidic teaching, find themselves moved by a protagonist's challenge, and delight in the sheer pleasures of storytelling.
For twenty-five years Rabbi Tovia Halberstam, a scion of the leading Chassidic dynasties, told these riveting tales to an audience of thousands on Yiddish radio in New York. His son, Joshua Halberstam, has translated these tales into a contemporary English that addresses a modern sensibility while maintaining the full charm and authenticity of the original tales.