Page 82 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
collections have continued the process o f culling material from
both oral and written sources. Over two dozen collections have
b rough t into p rin t hund reds , perhaps thousands, o f tales that
have been neglected in recen t times. With the resurgence o f
storytelling, many are eager to have these tales to read and tell:
parents in the home, rabbis in the synagogue, teachers in the
school, family and friends a round the holiday table, and p ro ­
fessional storytellers everywhere.
From the beginning, the story has been a vital aspect o f Jewish
life. It is pa r t and parcel o f the Bible, the Talm ud (the Oral
Law), the Aggadah (the stories, legends, folktales, parables and
maxims that convey the spirit o f the Oral Law), and the Midrash.
In addition, stories are featu red in medieval collections o f tales,
in hasidic accounts from the 18th and 19th centuries, in Yiddish
writings from the 16th to the 19th centuries, as well as in folk­
tales that have been retold th roughou t the centuries in the Mid­
dle East and Europe.
During the past few decades the compilers o f story collections
from Jewish sources have mined the rich treasures o f medieval
lore, including:
The A lphabet o f Ben S ira ,
Nissim ben Jacob Ibn
Shahin’s
H ibbu r Yafeh Me-ha-Yeshuah
(trans. und e r the title
E l ­
egan t Composition Concern ing R e l ie f A fte r A dversity),
Berechiah Ha-
N akdan’s
M ish lei Shualim
(Fox Fables), and Joseph Ibn Zabara’s
Sefer Ha-Shaashu im
(Book o f Delight). In addition, the an tho l­
ogists owe a p ro found debt to the p ioneering work done in
the 20th century by two master folklorists/scholars, Moses Gaster
and Louis Ginzberg.
Certainly the best place to begin the search for themes, topics
and sources connected with the biblical narrative is Ginzberg’s
7-volume
The Legends o f the Jew s
(Phila., Jewish Publication So­
ciety, 1909-38). This compendium is invaluable for investigating
the rabbinic and folkloristic sources on the Bible. Moses Gaster
is responsible for the compiling o f two major works:
M a ’aseh
Book
(Book o f Jewish Tales and Legends), 2 vols. (Phila., Jewish
Publication Society, 1934), and
The Exempla o f the Rabbis,
(1924,
rep r. by Ktav, 1968). T h e
M a ’aseh Book,
rep rin ted in 1981 in
one volume, is based on an early manuscript which was the
first Yiddish collection o f popu lar tales. T h e 254 stories from
various post-biblical sources cover a wide range.
The E xem p la ,
a volume o f more than 300 tales in summary form first pub ­
lished in 1924, is subtitled: “Being a Collection o f Exempla,