And so it was enough: the power of storytelling

Once to avert a terrible disaster, the Baal Shem Tov went into the forest, lit a candle and prayed a special prayer. With God’s help, the disaster was averted.

Years after the death of the Baal Shem Tov, another disaster confronted the Jews and it fell to his disciple, the Maggid of Mezritch to avert the catastrophe. He said, “I don’t know the prayer the Baal Shem Tov used, but I know the place and I can light the candle.” So he went to the same place and lit the candle, and it was enough. With God’s help the disaster was averted.

After the Maggid passed from the earth another crisis awaited the Jewish people and it fell to his disciple, the Rabbi Shmelke of Nikolsberg to rescue the people. He said, “I do not know the prayer, and I do not have the candle, but I can go to the place and it must be enough.” And so he did, and with God’s help, it was enough.

After the death of Rabbi Smelke, Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sassov, his disciple was called upon to save his people from another calamity . He said, “Ah me! I do not know the prayer, I do not have the candle, and I do not even know where the forest is. But I do know the story. I will tell it and God will help.” And so it was enough, with God’s help.

The hasidic rabbis believed that storytelling, especially stories of holy people, was a mitzvah or a divine work. When God’s people told stories it was said that God himself listened.

There is something powerful about storytelling. Many have suggested storytelling can bring emotional healing and health–there are some approaches in psychology that focus on the use of narrative in therapy. John Chrysostom directed parents to teach their children by telling them stories from the Scripture. They were encouraged to tell stories until the children had learned them by heart and then to ask their children how the story helps them and what can they learn from it.

I think every person is moved by story. So what about you? What story connects with you the most? Is it a movie, a piece of literature, a folk tale? What is your story?


About Darryl Willis

Darryl has been working for non-profits for over 36 years. His current work takes him to Ukraine several times a year. He has fallen in love with the country and the people. Darryl writes poetry and his work has appeared in several online and print journals.
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