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The Storyteller’s Art

Michal Eisikowitz

You don’t have to be a great storyteller to tell a great story. A comforting thought for fathers who are nervous about their own obligation to tell the “story of all stories” on Seder night. Can even the most tongue-tied Tatty give due honor to the story of the Exodus? Revelations and insights from some of today’s best-known storytellers.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stories have always been intimately connected with Yiddishkeit. From the multilayered, cryptic parables of Chazal, to the vibrant chassidishe maisehs of yore, instructive and inspiring tales are the colorful weave in the intricate fabric that is Judaism. And nowhere is the story more central than on Pesach, when storytelling is uplifted from the status of mere entertainment to become the Torah injunction that preserves our mesorah.

But retelling to our children the seminal Pesach narrative in a captivating and comprehensive way presents a daunting task for many a parent. Can even the most tongue-tied fathers in the position of leading a Seder give due honor to the story of the Exodus?

Some of today’s well-known storytellers — Rabbis Dovid Kaplan, Paysach Krohn, Binyomin Pruzansky, and Fishel Schachter — share the secrets of their craft, revealing that one needn’t be a gifted orator to tell a good story.

“I grew up on stories,” relates longtime rebbi and speaker Rabbi Schachter. “It was how my father put me to sleep each night as a child, and the warm feeling engendered has never left me.”

Rabbi Dovid Kaplan, a rebbi in Jerusalem’s Ohr Somayach and author of the Impact! book series, admits that he has about 2,500 stories on file. “Humor in a speech can become irreverent, but a story always packs a punch,” he says. “I’ve never had a listener approach me to complain that a lecture included too many stories.”

 

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