Three Times Chai: 54 Rab­bis Tell Their Favorite Stories

Laney Katz Becker
  • Review
By – March 2, 2012
Read­ing this book is like attend­ing a sto­ry­telling fes­ti­val in print! Laney Katz Beck­er has invit­ed fifty-four rab­bis, from all branch­es of Judaism, to con­tribute their favorite sto­ries. A great vari­ety of gen­res are includ­ed: clas­sic Bible sto­ries, midrashim, folk­tales, extend­ed jokes, and leg­ends. The sto­ries come from many dif­fer­ent places, time peri­ods, and cul­tures. Each brief sto­ry, most as short as a page or two, reflects a Jew­ish val­ue and is writ­ten in an oral style. At the end of each sto­ry there is an instruc­tive note from the con­trib­u­tor explain­ing the story’s les­son and why it is the rabbi’s favorite or how the rab­bi applies the story’s les­son. The book is divid­ed into four sec­tions: 1) Com­mu­ni­ty— sto­ries about rela­tion­ships, tzedakah, and tikun olam, our respon­si­bil­i­ty to heal the world; 2) Reli­gion — sto­ries about Jew­ish iden­ti­ty, prac­tices, and spir­i­tu­al­i­ty; 3) God’s World — sto­ries about the ways in which we relate to God and live accord­ing to God’s plan; and 4) Out­look — sto­ries about our atti­tudes, choic­es, and quests for truth, hon­esty, wis­dom, and courage. As won­der­ful as this book is, it would have become an even greater resource if sources for the sto­ries were also includ­ed. Some of the rab­bis do indi­cate in their per­son­al notes where or when or from whom they first heard the sto­ry but about half of the sto­ries have no sources giv­en. Nev­er­the­less, more source infor­ma­tion, sup­plied by the rab­bi or else by Laney Katz Beck­er who col­lect­ed and edit­ed the sto­ries, would have added a valu­able dimen­sion to such a col­lec­tion. Per­haps what could be includ­ed in the next edi­tion of the book is an index to the sto­ry sources or to an ear­ly ver­sion of the sto­ry, in addi­tion to a glos­sary, which would con­tribute great­ly to set­ting the midrashim, leg­ends and folk­tales in a con­text and sup­ply­ing much-need­ed iden­ti­fy­ing back­ground. This book of favorite Jew­ish sto­ries is high­ly rec­om­mend­ed. It is cer­tain that sto­ry­tellers, edu­ca­tors, cler­gy, par­ents and grand­par­ents will find a trea­sure trove of mar­velous sto­ries to read and tell!
Penin­nah Schram, well-known sto­ry­teller & author, is Pro­fes­sor of Speech and Dra­ma at Yeshi­va Uni­ver­si­ty’s Stern Col­lege. Her lat­est book is an illus­trat­ed anthol­o­gy, The Hun­gry Clothes and Oth­er Jew­ish Folk­tales (Ster­ling Pub­lish­ing) and a CD, The Min­strel & the Sto­ry­teller, with singer/​guitarist Ger­ard Edery (Sefarad Records). She is a recip­i­ent of a Covenant Award for Out­stand­ing Jew­ish Edu­ca­tor and the 2003 Nation­al Sto­ry­telling Net­work’s Life­time Achieve­ment Award.

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