Stories told by the Chassidic masters and stories about their deeds and their lives have great importance in the Chassidic tradition. In this week’s parsha we learn the story of Yosef and his brothers, and his sale into slavery in Egypt because of the brothers’ hatred. “Yosef dreamt a dream which he told to his brothers… His brothers said to him, ‘Would you then reign over us? Would you then dominate us? And they hated him even more- because of his dreams and because of his talk.’” (Chapter 37, Verses 5, 8)
Rebbe Noson explains based on this verse that the Tsaddik reveals lofty and awesome secrets of the Torah specifically through stories and even through his (seemingly) mundane conversations. By way of his stories he is able to awaken people from their spiritual slumber and help them return to Hashem. This is the secret, he says, of why after the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden the Torah states that Hashem clothed them, which alludes to how the Torah clothes or hides deep and wondrous secrets in the stories told in the Torah. Rebbe Noson gives further examples of this principle: Ya’akov needed to disguise himself in the clothing of his brother Esav in order to receive the blessings from his father Yitzchak. This is also the deeper meaning of the story of the dreams which Yosef tells at the beginning of the parsha. Rebbe Noson says that even in the stories and dreams which common people tell there are special messages which can be learned, however most people don’t understand the deeper meaning of the story or dream. Only a great Tsaddik, like Yosef, knows how to find the deeper meaning in them. Afterwards, when he was imprisoned in Egypt, Yosef was able to solve Pharaoh’s dreams and rise to greatness because he knew how to interpret the deeper meaning of dreams. (Likutei Halachot, Laws of Theft, 3rd teaching)
We can learn a lot from these stories, the stories that Rebbe Nachman told, as well as other great Chassidic masters and Tsaddikim. I once heard, from a teacher at the Breslov workshop which I learned at a few years ago, that there are places in our soul which can only be reached through music or through stories. Sometimes we can understand important messages about life better through a story, it has the ability to touch our hearts and impress us in a deeper way than hearing the same teaching in a direct manner.
It has been very special for me to learn with my older daughter the past few years a series of Rebbe Nachman’s stories adapted for children. This past summer during the time of parent and child learning on Shabbat I would read a story with my daughter and some of her friends. It was really one of the highlights of Shabbat for me, because I saw how the stories grabbed the children’s attention, and how much they contain powerful teachings which someone can relate to and learn from at any age. Many times I have found myself inspired from reading the stories together, and I saw that it really made an impression upon me.
A few years ago in Uman I bought for my daughter a story book, written by Rav Shalom Arush, about the life of the holy Baal Shem Tov. Once, when we were reading it together I began crying as I read the words. The Baal Shem Tov’s father passed away when he was a very small child, at the age of 5. In the book his father says to him before his death, with great emphasis, “I want to tell you something very important, the most important thing in the world, which you should know and guard the rest of your life: ‘Hashem is always with you, he’s always protecting you and always sees you, he loves you, and he’s never going to leave you.’” Aside from the deep and simple message of faith contained in these words, which touched me, I think it touched me even deeper because of my father’s death three and a half years ago. I remember during the first few weeks after I found out about his death crying intensely when I was by myself in personal prayer and even at other times during the day. Despite the strong pain I felt by his sudden death, I also felt in those moments a deep feeling of Hashem’s love and His closeness. The tears were so healing, it’s something which is hard to explain. As I read the story with my daughter, a few years after his death, I felt again this feeling of deep connection and love with Hashem, by reading these seemingly simple words written for children.