Let My People Know

"Profound contents written in simple prose"

This past week Rabbi Steinsaltz was asked by the On Faith web site, “Tell us about a book (or books) that made a difference in your life.”

He replied:

The Jews are not just “The People of the Book.”

Much closer to the fact, they are “The People of Many Books”.

It would be too cumbersome to list the many books that are either important generally, or have a private, individual influence.

In many instances, a choice of one book is not a matter of extreme importance or overwhelming influence, but rather of a mood. In one mood, one book comes to the front, while at other times or in other situations, a different book may be chosen.

So it is, in some way, an expression of a particular time and mood that I mention one book, which is not the greatest or most important, but is still very influential.

This is a little book that has several names, and is called “The Tales of Rabbi Nachman of Braslav”.

These tales are written in the basic format of folk tales, even though (unlike most folk tales), most of them are completely original.

The stories, told in very simple language, contain many adventures, miracles and extraordinary events, but the simple format is just a very thin cover for the profound contents written in simple prose.

Most of the tales are very poetic, with the qualities of high poetry, but what is more important is the very elaborate symbolism, the very original thinking and innovative messages.

Strangely enough, these tales hardly contain any direct reference to religion, and hardly ever mention the Divine.

The messages within contain much material – from very keen, sometimes even sarcastic observations of human life and history, as well as very strong moral guidance.

The beauty and the power of these tales comes also from the fact that they can be read and enjoyed by children, and can be re-read many times by adults, even by very knowledgeable people.

The book can be found in several English translations, as well as in other languages, in different levels of accuracy.
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “On Faith: A Conversation about Religion with Jon Meacham and Sally Quinn”