The Essential Jewish Stories

KTAV  2011

From his life’s work as a congregational rabbi, Rossel retells over 320 stories, personal teaching favorites he has chosen because they thrum with Jewish belief, ethics, and ways of life meaningful today. Stories draw through time from traditional tales to eclectic selections from Internet anecdotes, Kafka, Boccaccio, and Sufi lore. Most, but not all, have Jewish roots and include adaptations from Newman, Buber, Ausubel, Langer, Midrash, Talmud, and Rossel’s own published works. Brief sources follow each story, though folktales are often identified merely as Yiddish/European without naming a particular book.  Some of the sources, like Certner’s 101 Jewish Stories, are out of print, which makes it so valuable to have whole stories here.

The book is divided into four sections—God, Torah, Israel, and Faith—and then subdivided into many categories. Israel is by far the largest section, encompassing themes from daily living, such as community, gossip, justice, and choosing life. There are thirty-two stories on Wisdom in the Torah section. Despite, disappointingly, there being only four tales under Women, this book is a gift for rabbis, storytellers, parents, and teachers. It is clear that Rossel has not only been a good storyteller in his life, but also a good listener. Many of these stories have been told before, but they sound fresh in this user-friendly collection, enhanced with indexes by holidays, characters, and concepts and values, as well as a bibliography.

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