SIPPURIM (MA'ASIYYOT), ḤASIDIC:
Stories, legends, or tales related by, or of, the Ḥasidic "rebbes" (rabbis)—the "ẓaddiḳim," or "ḳedoshim," as they are sometimes called; or, in Judæo-German, the "gute Yiden." These sippurim are to be distinguished from those which relate to heroes, scholars, or saints, and which belong to Jewish biography, history, or fiction (comp. Wolf Pascheles, "Sippurim," 6 vols., Prague, 1864-70). The Ḥasidic sippurim were never intended as mere narratives; as the "siḥat ḥullin" (the secular conversation of the learned) they have rather a deeper object in view. They are divided into two classes. One class consists of fiction, sippurim elaborated in the imagination of their authors, and used as parables to impress upon Israel the Ḥasidic religious conceptions; these were generally related by the rebbes themselves. The second class is composed of sippurim supposed to be based on facts, or of incidents in the lives of the rebbes; these their disciples and followers related in praise of their masters, whom they almost worshiped. Relating these incidents constituted in itself a meritorious act, as much so as studying the Law or reciting the Psalms, or even as offering up "bikkurim" and sacrifices to the Lord.
To make the sippur more mystical and affecting, the rebbe would not explain its moral, but would leave it to his listeners for later discussion and debate, each time making a different comment to suit particular circumstances and conditions. He would discuss the sippur from every side—its merits,meaning, purpose, and its effect upon followers and opponents ("mitnaggedim"). These stories were not told from the pulpit, but at the gathering of the Ḥasidim at the third of the Sabbath meals ("shalosh se'uddot"), between "Minḥah" and "Ma'arib"; at the meal after "Habdalah," at the closing of Sabbath, and at every gathering of Ḥasidim when the rebbe was not presiding at the table. The stories were related in connection with the "Ḥasidic Torah," a term used to distinguish Ḥasidic from other interpretations of the Bible or the Midrash.Printed Sippurim.
The Ḥasidic sippurim, of both kinds, made their first appearance in type almost simultaneously, about 1814, with the "Sippure Ma'asiyyot" collected by Nathan b. Naphtali Herz of Lemberg (or Nemirov), and credited to R. Naḥman b. Simḥah, grandson of Israel b. Eliezer Ba'al Shem-Ṭob (BeSHT), and with the "Shibḥe BeSHT" of Dob Baer b. Samuel Shoḥeṭ. The place of publication of the former work is not given; the latter appeared at Kopys in 1814, and at Berdychev in 1815. "Sippure Ma'asiyyot" has, below the Hebrew text, a Judæo-German translation, and contains also an introduction and notes in Hebrew. It was republished many times, the latest edition at Warsaw in 1902. It contains the following stories: "The Lost Princess"; "The King and the Kaiser"; "The Wise Man"; "Miracles"; "The King and the Wise Man"; "The Rabbi and the Only Son"; "The Conquering King"; "The Wise and the Simpleton"; "Berger and the Poor Man"; "The Prince and the Slave's Son Exchanged"; "The Ba'al-Tefillah"; "Seven Schnorrers." In the introduction it is explained that the "Princess" represents the Shekinah, or Judaism, that the "King" is God, etc., and that these "wonderful, fearful, and terrible" stories contain great moral lessons, which should compel the listener or reader to repent in his heart and to mend his ways.
The stories are full of supernormal incidents, and of fancies of "leẓim" (ghosts), witches, and the "Sam" (Samael, Satan); there are grand palaces, immense riches, stores of jewels, a gold mountain, and a great diamond from which, when any one looks at it, human figures creep out. The heroes are generally kings or princes, while the heroines, who are always veiled, are invariably princesses and the most beautiful creatures on earth. The food of even the ordinary mortal is fit for a king, and is cooked by fire issuing from a subterranean channel connected with a fire-mountain; and birds hover over the hearth to make or extinguish with their wings the fire for cooking. A sleep lasting seventy years is frequently described as overtaking one of the characters, who is awakened only by a thrilling story. In "Maggid Siḥot" (date and place of publication not given) the author of the "Sippure Ma'asiyyot" collected the sayings, stories, and incidents connected with the journey to Palestine of the rebbe Naḥman.Folk-Tale Features.
The stories in "Shibḥe BeSHT" bear the true Ḥasidic traits of the Ba'al-Shem, his successor Baer of Meseritz, and others. The rebbes were all miracle-workers, exorcising bad spirits, healing diseases, removing sterility, and never failing to give good advice, inspired, perhaps, by a "ḳemia'" (amulet); sometimes they gave a "segullah" (remedy), or offered special prayer for "children, life, and maintenance." The prophetic revelation ("hitgallut") of the rebbe is described, also the Biblical character whom he represents through a transfer of personality. The rebbe would sometimes be a "ro'eh weeno nir'eh" (one who is present but invisible).
There is a strong suspicion that the name given as that of the author of the "Sippure Ma'asiyyot" is a pseudonym, and that it was used by one who, under the pretense of being a Ḥasid, passed off as genuine parables of the rebbes a collection of stories from Oriental sources, which he flavored with characteristic Ḥasidic expressions, and thereby secured as readers large numbers of the Ḥasidim, especially women, for whom the translation was made, and who were easily led to regard the stories as indubitably Ḥasidic. The author of "Shibḥe BeSHT" undoubtedly was actuated by these motives; but he had also another object in view—to conceal an elaborate sarcasm at the expense of the whole Ḥasidic system of theology, which was strenuously opposed by the followers of the Wilna gaon. So well was this latter purpose achieved that a majority of the Ḥasidim implicitly believed the stories, though they are of the most exaggerated kind, and were disavowed by the more learned Ḥasidim as ridiculous. The mingling of Ḥasidic Hebrew with Judæo-German idioms, in which these stories abound, strengthens the suspicion of the author's sincerity.
Joseph Perl, in his "Megalleh Ṭemirin" (Vienna, 1819), 151 Ḥasidic letters containing many connected stories, is not so guarded. His exaggerated style and the anti-Ḥasidic ending of the story betray him, though it is asserted that for a long time, under the pseudonym of "Obadiah ben Pethahiah," it was accepted by many as a genuine Ḥasidic work."Shibḥe ha-Rab."
Perhaps the most interesting of these sippurim is "Shibḥe ha-Rab," relating to Rebbe Senior Zalman of Lodi, or Liozna (1747-1812), the author of "Rab Shulḥan 'Aruk" and "Tanya." The "Shibḥe ha-Rab" was edited by Abraham Herschel Drucker (Lemberg, 1845?). Rebbe Zalman was a disciple of Baer of Meseritz, and was arrested as a "revolutionary" suspect in St. Petersburg in 1798, the arrest being the result of the machinations of the disciples of the gaon of Wilna, who were combating Ḥasidic Judaism. The arrest caused consternation among the Ḥasidim, who collected a large fund for the "ransom" of their ẓaddiḳ. It is asserted that Czar Paul I. personally examined the prisoner, who managed to rescue from the enemy his correspondence with his followers, and that finally he miraculously triumphed over the mitnaggedim. The day of his triumph has been observed as a holiday ever since among the Ḥasidim.
Another story told of Rebbe Zalman is that, in the Napoleonic invasion of Russia in 1812, fearing the growth of heresies as a result of a French victory, he prayed for the success of the Russian arms, while Rebbe Shelomo of Karlin prayed for the triumph of France. Rosh ha-Shanah approaching, each anticipated miraculous support through the medium ofthe "teḳi'at shofar." The followers of the opposing rebbes predicted that the prayers of whichever rebbe blew the shofar first on Rosh ha-Shanah would be granted. Rebbe Zalman blew first, and Rebbe Shelomo knew that he had been defeated directly he grasped his shofar. Rebbe Zalman was in constant communication with the Russian commander (who would not move without his advice), and had sworn by his ṭallit and phylacteries that the French would be defeated at Moscow; and so it happened.
The Judæo-German translation of "Shibḥe BeSHT" was published in various editions, including those under the titles "Ḳehal Ḥasidim" (Lemberg) and "Sippure Ma'asiyyot" (Warsaw, 1881); some of these editions contain a few stories of later rebbes. Another series of Ḥasidic stories credited to BeSHT, "'Adat Ẓaddiḳim," in Hebrew and Judæo-German, was composed by Michael Levi Frumkin (Lemberg, 1865). There are also the "Seder ha-Dorot he-Ḥadash," sketches of the disciples of BeSHT (part i. contains a Ḥasidic bibliography of eighty-three works), and "'Iggeret ha-Ḳodesh," relating to the experiences of the rebbe Mendel of Vitebsk in the Holy Land. Separate stories, in pamphlet form, of each rebbe appeared from time to time, as those of the rebbe Löb Sarah's, of the rebbe of Ruzhin, and of the rebbe of Sandigura. These sippurim are most widely distributed in Podolia, Volhynia, Rumania, Galicia, and Russian Poland; the centers of publication are Lemberg and Warsaw. A unique contribution to the Ḥasidic sippurim is "The Rabbi of Liszka," in English, by Anthony P. Slutzker (New York, 1901). See Ba'al Shem-Ṭob, Israel b. Eliezer; Folk-Tales; Ḥasidim.