As the author of many bestselling novels, including Gordian Knot and Blackout, Yair Weinstock knows how to use the power of words to tell a gripping, unforgettable story. And as a collector of true tales, author of the popular Tales of the Soul and Once Upon a Story series, he knows how transformative (and entertaining!) a true story can be.
With the release of his newest book, Once Upon a Story 2, I asked Rabbi Weinstock to tell me a little about his stories.
And he told me a true story…
“I once wrote a story about a certain Chassidic rebbe who had a son who went off the derech, despite all his father’s efforts. After the rebbe died, he came to his son in a dream, telling him that if he didn’t do teshuvah he would be punished.
“The rebellious son laughed at the dream, even though it was repeated a few times. Finally, he had another dream. His father, the rebbe, told him he had no choice but to punish him, and he threw a heavy branch on his son’s legs. ‘You didn’t do teshuvah,’ the rebbe told his son, ‘and for seven generations your sons will limp.’
“And, indeed, the rebellious son awoke, and from that day forward he, and his children, walked with a limp.
“Not long after the story appeared, I got a call from a stranger in Petach Tikvah. ‘My father, and my grandfather, limp,’ the man told me, ‘and I do not. And do you know what: I am the eighth generation descendant of that famed rebbe. Rabbi Weinstock,’ the man continued, ‘I am a completely secular Jew, but after I read that story, I put on tefillin for the first time.’”
Stories, wonderful Jewish stories, are in Yair Weinstock’s blood. “My father was always full of stories,” he remembers. “Even when I was small, I would listen as he told them over to the older children. And then I would hear stories told over by the Chassidim of Lelov, at melaveh malkahs, rosh chodesh gatherings, and just general ‘after-davening’ talk.”
Now, he adds, after so many hundreds of his true stories have delighted tens of thousands of readers, the stories find him. “Readers call me, send letters,” Rabbi Weinstock says. “I see tremendous siyata d’Shmaya: just when I need a story, someone tells me one!”
And that is the story behind the story.