In a small, unfinished basement near the Canadian border, two Chassidim were engaged in a fierce debate. Just a few rays of light entered through the small window, and the shadows of the Chassidim’s slander figures seemed to dance in the semi-darkness.
As the debate raged, emotions ran high. Suddenly, one of the Chassidim raised his Siddur in his right hand while banging on the table with his left!
Are you curious about what happened next? I bet you are. Stories have a magical power to captivate our imagination. However, I must apologize – this story has no conclusion. I made it up to illustrate the power of storytelling.
Recently, I was thinking about the impact of stories because of the ongoing Hollywood writers’ and actors’ strikes. Although these strikes do not affect me directly since I don’t consume any Hollywood content (yes, I don’t even have a Netflix subscription!), I can’t deny the immense influence of Hollywood. In 2002, the movie industry was worth over $95 billion. And by 2030, revenue is predicted to reach $169 billion!
Regardless of the strike, it’s clear that Hollywood mastered the art of storytelling, turning it into a money machine. Sadly, the main focus of the industry is profit. That leads to a long list of films that, while undoubtedly entertaining, tend to pull us down rather than elevate us.
This contrast becomes more apparent when we examine storytelling’s role in Judaism.
Absolutely, Judaism values storytelling. The Torah, a book of law, surprisingly contains many stories.
The Torah values the stories so much it chose to dedicate thousands of verses to the stories of the world’s creation, the lives of the patriarchs and matriarchs, the exodus, etc.
Each story and detail is a valuable lesson to impact our lives positively.
In Chassidic teachings, stories receive much attention and respect. The Rebbe once mentioned that while telling stories might seem like a waste of time compared to studying Torah, listening to an inspiring Chassidic story can profoundly impact a person, motivating them to dedicate more to G-d and His Torah.
When we realize the importance and power of stories, we know we need to be intelligent consumers and choose them wisely. We can be on the lookout for positive and holy stories, and the more we have them, the more our lives will improve.
To make amends for the fictional story at the beginning of this column, here is a real story:
It was morning in the shtetel, and one person was acting strange. It was Moshe, the local innkeeper. He was holding a heavy, wooden wall clock in his hands.
“Do you have any information about this clock?” He was asking the local shop owners. “Have you seen this clock before?” He inquired about the old lady knitting a baby blanket outside her home. “Do you know who used to own this beautiful clock?” He was questioning passersby.
Most people had no clue, but Moshe insisted on finding as much information as possible about this clock.
“Moshe, what’s with you?” His friend, Yankel, was worried. By now, the entire shtetel was gossiping about Moshe. “Is everything okay? I know this is your clock, but you seem too obsessed with it!”
“I am wonderful, thank G-d” Moshe frowned. “And I am looking for this information only because I have a distinguished guest at my house, Rabbi Yisochor Dovber of Radishitz. He stayed at my home and insisted I find out where this clock originated.”
Finally, Moshe discovered that his clock used to belong to the famous Tzadik, the “Seer of Lublin.” Happy to have the information, he hurried back to his inn to share it with his guest.
“Now I understand!” exclaimed the Rebbe of Radishitz. “I couldn’t sleep last night because the chimes of this clock were so wonderful!
“When other clocks chime every hour, they have a sad undertone. Here, another hour passed! You are closer to your grave! But this clock had a joyful chime. Here, another hour passed, and we are now closer to the coming of Moshiach! And when the clock chimed the top of the hour, I would get out of bed and start dancing!
“Now that I know whose clock it is, I can understand its specialness.”
I hope you enjoy this story, and I invite you to explore many more beautiful stories at our website (www.Chabad.org/stories).
May our lives, just like the clock in the story, be filled with tunes and stories that uplift us and remind us that good times are ahead.