Storytelling

What is a maggid?

In the Bible, a maggid (“teller”) interprets dreams and riddles, or tells eyewitness stories of events, or serves as a prophet.

In the Middle Ages, a maggid was an itinerant preacher and storyteller, while a darshan delivered sermons at his synagogue.  The role of the maggid reached its greatest glory in Eastern Europe during the 17th through 19th centuries, when the chassidic movement fostered leaders who combined the jobs of maggiddarshan, and rabbi.

In 2010 Rabbi David Zaslow and Maggidah Debra Gordon Zaslow started their first  two-year maggid program. I had been wondering whether I could call already call myself a maggid  (or maggidah, the feminine form of the word), since I was both telling stories in the form of Torah monologues, and giving divrai Torah (sermons related to the Torah portion). But I wanted to learn how to tell stories without a printed page in front of me. So I signed up—and learned more than I expected. David Zaslow showed me ways to construct a d’var Torah that I had never thought of. And Debra Zaslow taught me new ways to inhabit a story. I graduated and received my certificate in January 2012.

Besides telling many stories for P’nai Or of Portland, OR, I have participated in storytelling concerts at the ALEPH Kallah in Redmond, CA, and at Havurah Shir Hadash in Ashland, OR.

At first I balked at telling Chassidic stories. Too many of them struck me as thin, moralizing, and irrelevant to my own view of life. Then I discovered that I could start with a traditional Chassidic tale, and give it my own twist. An example is the story I rewrote and told at our maggid graduation weekend. Click on the arrow to start the video (filmed by Cathy Zheutlin).

“The Madwoman of Kitov”

MY FAVORITE STORIES TO TELL

Lot and Honey Go to Egypt (my story leaping off from a Talmudic tale)

The Shiviti and the Dog (a Chassidic story with my own part 2)

Gilda Goldblatt Compares Miracles (my own invention)

The Evil Eye Has No Tears (two Chassidic tales I combined for Sukkot)

King Saul and the Ghost (a story from the Book of Samuel I)

King Solomon’s Ring (my combination of two folktales and Ecclesiastes)

The Madwoman of Kitov (a Chassidic story with my own part 2)

Reb Dovid and the Book of Life (my revision of a Chassidic story for Yom Kippur)

Shimon Bar Yochai and the Cave (a tale from the Talmud)

The Souls of Trees (a Chassidic story)

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  1. Where can I find your story “The Shivitti and the Dog” ?
    I think you are a good storyteller and actor. I read your comment on “Bo” on my search to find something positive said about dogs in Torah. I really liked what you wrote and before I read it, I had in mind that the words kelev and Kaleb are almost identically:).
    You just confirmed me in that thought with your comment. I shared it with my Messianic Hebrew Torah observant friends with a hint to your blog.
    Todah rabah & Shabbat Shalom Melissa!

    • “The Shivitti and the Dog” is one of the stories I tell “live”. It hasn’t been videotaped yet, and I haven’t published it in written form. But maybe someday I’ll do a storytelling concert in your part of the country. I’m not traveling this summer, since I’m working on a book (not to mention the High Holy Days), but eventually I’ll add upcoming appearances to this website.
      —Shavuah tov!
      —Melissa


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