Extraordinary Chassidic Tales–Tales of Our Holy Rebbeim And Their Chassidim, Volume 1 When the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, was told that telling stories of the Baal Shem Tov on Motzoie Shabbos would bring blessings for prosperity, he replied that there are three inaccuracies with this statement:
a)It applies to stories of all tzaddikim, not only to those of the Baal Shem Tov; b)It applies whenever the stories are told, not only Motzoie Shabbos; c)It brings blessings in all matters, not only material prosperity. May the publication of these stories bring the ultimate blessing, the coming of Moshiach, and may it be in the immediate future.”
To my mind, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, when he first said that, had in mind such story books as the three-volume set, “Extraordinary Chassidic Tales.” Many things point in that direction, and when you read these stories you’ll quickly see why. More than 40 years ago, when the Rebbe assumed the leadership of Lubavitch, he requested that the elder Chassidim commit their early memories and recollections of Lubavitch down on paper. Although Rabbi Kahn was not an author, he undertook this project with enthusiasm and self-sacrifice, encouraged and blessed by the Rebbe every step of the way. His collections of stories were so successful, in fact, they were reprinted several times, spreading the richness of our chassidic heritage throughout the Yiddish-speaking world–while helping to hasten the coming of Moshiach.
Over the years a number of books have delineated the history of various chassidic groups. Nowhere to my recollection –until now–has any book bridged the gaps through the same dynasty of rebbes, making them flesh-and-blood holy men through the venue of stories. These volumes mark the first time these stories are available in English, enabling a much broader audience to reap the fruits of Chassidus. Chassidic philosophy, too? Yes. A French writer once said, “If you want to be a philosopher, write stories.” Kahn has done exactly that. For your entertainment and chassidic insights, then, Rabbi Kahn and, later, his son-in-law, Rabbi Yitzchok Gansburg, have penned Extraordinary Chassidic Tales. The three- volume set contains everything you ever wanted to know about that time in history when the Baal Shem gave new hope and purpose to Jews without any hope or purpose, and why Chassidism has evolved to a such a high level today. Six Baal Shem Tov stories open the book, followed by 18–chai!–tales involving the Maggid of Mezritch. Suddenly, from there on, Rabbi Kahn has us totally immersed in Chabad-Lubavitch life. The Lubavitcher Rebbeim–the Alter Rebbe, the Mittler Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, the Rebbe Maharash, the Rebbe Rashab, the Rebbe Rayatz, and the Rebbe–are anything but cardboard figures. As represented in this set of books, they come alive, and you’ll see why millions of Chassidim today are more than ever infused with achus of G-d and ahavas Yisrael. Two of my favorite stories are “The Red Se! a Wasn’t Filled With Whiskey,” in which the Rebbe Rashab noted: “One has to conclude that the Red Sea wasn’t filled with whiskey; if it had, drying it up would not have been a miracle”; and “It Happened One Night,” the stirring account of how the Rebbe introduced the niggun “Shamil” to his Chassidim–and how amazed Cantor Moshe Teleshevsky was on hearing the hauntingly beautiful voice of the Rebbe that Simchas Torah of 1958. I guarantee you, after you read Extraordinary Chassidic Tales, you’ll have your own favorite tales. But do as I intend to do: share these stories at your farbrengens (chassidic gatherings). Then, you’ll own them forever.
Volume 1 contains 176 tales involving the Mittler Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, the Rebbe Maharash, or the Rebbe Rashab. And you won’t have to wonder what these persons looked like; in black and white, they–75 photos of them–are right in front of your eyes.