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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Hasidic Tales: Annotated & Explained (Skylight Illuminations) » User review

Fascinating and instructive legends

  • Aug 15, 2010
Rating:
+5
Rabbi Shapiro translates, annotates, and explains over 80 legendary tales that focus on the founder of the modern Chassidic movement, Israel ben Eliezer (1698-1760), known as the Baal Shem Tov, the Master of the Good Name, and the Chasidic rabbis who followed him. The stories are sometimes mystical, magical, unnatural, impossible, and paradoxical. But this does not diminish them in any way. The sticking parabolic nature of the legends helps turn the reader's mind from their facts to their message, and the interesting, unnatural legends are seen as true.

Shapiro gives his readers a twenty-five page introduction, which includes detailed information about the each of the rabbis mentioned in the tales. He presents the legends on the right hand pages and a brief description of the rabbi mentioned in the story, an explanation of terms, and a synopsis of the story's message on the adjacent left side.

Here are some synopses of his stories that admittedly fail to capture the beauty of the fully told tale. A woman gets lost in a forest. She meets a man and asks for directions, but he admits that he is also lost. She says, "You got lost by going one way while I got lost going another way. Let's share what we know about the wrong paths, and then we may find one together that succeeds." This teaches that we are all lost in one way or another, but if we share knowledge we can reach our goal.

A student returned from visiting his rabbi over the holiday. A scoffer asked him what he learnt. He said that he learnt the command "Thou shalt not steal." The scoffer laughed, "We learnt this without needing to take a long tedious trip." The student replied, "You learnt not to steal from others. I learnt not to steal from myself."

A Chassidic rabbi was unable to recognize a person who visited him frequently. He explained why. "The essence of a person is reflected in his thoughts. You are what you focus on. When I listen to you, I hear that your mind wanders from one thought to another. I can't tell who you are, whether you were a man who happens to have a mouth, or a mouth masquerading as a man." What does this paradoxical tale mean? Shapiro explains it and the other legends in his fine book.

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About the reviewer
Israel Drazin ()
Ranked #66
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of twenty books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four … more
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Wiki

Martin Buber was the first to bring the Hasidic tales to life for modern readers in the middle of the twentieth century. His groundbreaking work was the first time that most readers had ever encountered the lives and teachings of these profound and enigmatic spiritual masters from Eastern Europe.

In Hasidic Tales: Annotated & Explained, Rabbi Rami Shapiro breathes new life into these classic stories of people who so marvelously combined the mystical and the ordinary. Each demonstrates the spiritual power of unabashed joy, offers lessons for leading a holy life, and reminds you that the Divine can be found in the everyday.

Without an expert guide, the allegorical quality of Hasidic tales can be perplexing. But Shapiro presents them as stories rather than parables, making them accessible and meaningful. Now you can experience the wisdom of Hasidism firsthand even if you have no previous knowledge of Jewish spirituality. This SkyLight Illuminations edition offers insightful yet unobtrusive commentary that explains theological concepts, introduces major characters, offers clarifying references unfamiliar to most readers, and reveals how you can use the Hasidic tales to further your own spiritual awakening.

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Details

ISBN-10: 1893361861
ISBN-13: 978-1893361867
Author: Rami M. Shapiro
Publisher: Skylight Paths Publishing

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