The Storyteller

Torah is not a document. The Torah especially is not a document. There is a difference between Torah and The Torah.

A library, a collection of Jewish wisdom told from generation to generation, Torah is less frequently (and more correctly) called Torah Shelba’peh to distinguish it from The Torah. The Torah is less frequently (and incorrectly) called Torah Sheh’bikhtav.

One literally means “oral Torah”, the other literally means “written Torah”. Chas ve’shalom – G!d Forbid – that anything about The Torah is incorrect, other than calling it “written Torah”.

What was once correct, calling The Torah Torah Sheh’bikhtav, is correct no longer. Language advances as time moves on. The Torah is written, certainly, Moshe Rabénu wrote it, or caused it to be written, I do not dispute this.

This describes how The Torah was collected, it does not describe what was collected – and what was collected other than stories?

The Torah has other names, more correct names – sefer torah, chumash – and also separate names, the names of books and chapters, names that group the national histories of the People Israel, names that tell the biographies of a family, Israel’s Children (Bené Yisra’él).

Torah also has other names. Siddur, Mishna, Gemara, Talmud, Midrash, Agada – and within these names are other names, the names of books and chapters.

It is all Torah. Whatever name we use to describe Torah matters less than the stories told, for each name designates a type of story.

The Gemara especially collects and recounts stories. A Gemara without stories is inconceivable to anyone who has learned Talmud: a sugya is a doorway to proof. The key that unlocks the door? Stoytelling, and this is the very essence of Gemara. The halachta would be as dry as the desert sands without the agadata.

Storytelling, however, stands alone as a type of Torah. The storytelling told here is, for the moment, from the Chasidic traditions. Your storyteller is Zalman-Shlomo, the Kalashtyner Magid. Kalashtyne is a shtetl of the new country located west of the north’s mideast, where the air gives a natural Rocky Mountain high. Zalman-Shlomo will be pleased to tell The Torah’s stories also as time and Ha’Shem permit, one day at a time.

Tales of the Chasidim