Friday, March 6, 2015


Officially, Jews don't pasken from maaselach. 

Until we do. We can't help ourselves. 

Children are fascinated with any tale. When my niece asks, "Do you have any stories?" she means specifically details from my dating fiascoes.  I myself am a sucker for any anecdote of "How the Happy Couple Met."
My mother, like her mother before her, is a storyteller. Her memory is incomparable, and she mentally records numerous happenings for future reference, to be tugged out and dusted off for application to nearly any current situation.   
Stories have power. Scheherazade managed to keep her head firmly attached to her neck by managing to crank one out a day. 1,001 Arabian Nights is not the only saga of how storytelling saves lives.

And how stories survive! Megillas Esther is retold every year, and is no less gripping. We hold our breath in suspense, we weep in fear, we cheer when the good guys win. Then we reenact, donning our Mordechai, Esther, Haman, and Achashverosh costumes.
Even in areas of life we would think storytelling does not connect to, it does. Brené Brown's shame data comes from a method called "qualitative research," which means listening to many personal tales and finding the connecting threads. In "Why Doctors Need Stories," Peter Kramer reports that vignettes, once shunned from the medical field, are now having a revival.

I was listening to a Purim shiur by Rabbi Y.Y. Rubenstein. In Modim, he said, we thank Hashem for His wonders that take place daily. Accordingly, some rabbanim have said that we should keep journals. 

There are small wonders, large wonders, medium-sized wonders that happen in our lives. We should write them down. (Ma doesn't have to. Nothing gets lost in that head of hers.) 

And tell them over.         


Daniel Saunders said...

Qualitative research isn't exactly about listening to stories, although it may include that. It's really about research that doesn't involve numbers and statistics or empirical experimentation (quantitative research). My MA dissertation was primarily qualitative inasmuch as it consisted of interviews and a small (statistically insignificant) number of questionnaires as well as some observations of behaviour, but I'm not sure how much of the evidence I gathered could be considered a story.

Stories are definitely important, though. There is a reason we have aggadata as well as halakha and I feel uncomfortable with the prioritising of one over the other.

Rabbi Y. Y. Rubinstein spoke at my school a number of times. I recall that he was someone who could tell stories!

Princess Lea said...

Vignettes, then. Stories don't have to be epic.