Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Looking for Love: The Three Laughs by Doug Lipman

Welcome to Looking for Love, a series of stories by professional storytellers all about that elusive, tricky, wonderful, touching and sometimes humorous emotion that drive so much of life. For the next few days I will be posting these stories from many traditions and cultures to get us in the mood--or not!--for Valentine's Day this coming Sunday. 

We'll start with a story from Doug Lipman from the Hasidic tradition, a tale of mature love and joy, from the stories of the mystical Jewish rabbi, The Baal Shem Tov.

The Three Laughs

adapted by Doug Lipman

The Baal Shem Tov
Once, the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov decided to prepare him a special Sabbath. They worked for days to make sure that everything would be just as it should be, so that the spirit of the Sabbath would descend as it never had before.

At last, a few minutes before sundown on Friday night, they were all seated around a long table with the Baal Shem Tov at the place of honor at the head. The disciple who had been chosen for the special honor of lighting the Sabbath candles stood up and began to light the candles and say the blessing.
"Ha! Ha-ha!" Suddenly, the Baal Shem Tov gave a loud laugh.

The disciple lighting the candles looked around to see what was wrong--if there was something amiss with his clothing, perhaps--but everything was as it should be.

Later, they began the Sabbath meal. They gave the Baal Shem Tov the first bowl of the soup that they had labored so long over.

He tasted it. "Heh, heh, heh, heh!" He laughed and laughed.

The disciples were appalled. They rushed to taste the soup but there was nothing in it that tasted...humorous.

Still later, they were singing the Sabbath songs.
    Oh, what strength a righteous woman has!
    There is no treasure rarer than this!
    Happy is the heart that relies on her,
    For such a heart can lack for nothing....
    Yai, dai, dai, dai, dai, dai, dai, dai....
As they sang, the Baal Shem Tov began to laugh and laugh, as though he could not contain himself.
It was the custom of the disciples that, on Saturday night, after the spirit of the Sabbath had departed, they would choose one question between them, and present it to the Baal Shem Tov.

This Saturday, there was no debate as to what question they would ask. "Holy master, why did you laugh during the Sabbath--three times?"

In answer, the Baal Shem Tov said, "Come with me."

All the disciples crowded into the Baal Shem Tov's carriage. He drew the curtains over the windows, and they began to travel swiftly.

Several hours later, when he opened the curtains, they were in a distant village. None of them had ever been there before.

The Baal Shem Tov went to the leaders of the village. "Bring everyone to the village square. Now."

When the Baal Shem Tov stood looking out over that crowd of faces, he said, "There is still one family missing."

After a few minutes, the people realized, "It must be the old bookbinder and his wife. They live on the edge of town; they must not have gotten the word."

When this old man and this old woman entered the village square, and the old man saw who it was who was calling for him, he began to wring his hands. "Oh, Holy Master. I know I have committed a great sin. I only ask forgiveness."

"Bookbinder, tell my disciples and these people gathered here how you spent your Sabbath."

Fearfully, the old man glanced at the illustrious students of the Baal Shem Tov and began to speak. "I am an old bookbinder. In my youth, I could earn enough that we had what we needed during the week, and something special to greet the Sabbath. 

"But as I have grown older, there has been less and less. Finally, this Sabbath--for the first time--we had no Sabbath candles--and only a few crusts of bread for a Sabbath meal. My wife was determined that we would observe the Sabbath as well as we were able. And so, just before sundown, she went through the motions of lighting candles that were not there.

"As she did, I saw...a flash of light. And I understood for the first time that the light that I had thought came only from the candles was also coming from her. I shouted out, 'I love you'--in the middle of the holy blessing!

"I got control of myself, and went back to observing the Sabbath with due respect. But then later, we were beginning our humble meal. We had only warmed water for soup. But I tasted it. I felt...nourished. At that moment, I realized that the nourishment--which all these years I had thought came only from the soup--actually came also from her, from our being together through so many Sabbaths.

"And before I realized what I was doing, I jumped up. I kissed her! Shocked at my own behavior, I sat back down. I stayed in my seat properly until later, when we sang the Sabbath songs.
    Oh, what strength a righteous woman has!
    There is no treasure rarer than this!
"Singing these words, I realized what a great strength she was in my life.
    Happy is the heart that relies on her,
    For such a heart can lack for nothing....
"Suddenly, I knew that, in spite of our great poverty, while I had her in my life, I lacked for nothing.
"And then, before I knew what I was doing, I jumped up. I grabbed her by the arms. We began to sing and dance together.
    Yai, dai, dai, dai, dai, dai, dai, dai;
    Yai, dai, dai, dai, dai, dai, dai, dai....
"At last, I got control of myself and sat back down.

"Holy master, I know I have defiled the Sabbath. Please, tell me: what must I do to be forgiven?"

The Baal Shem Tov looked at his disciples. "When this man and this woman spent their Sabbath in such deep and holy love, I was there with them, and I shared in their joy. And when he spoke his love for that woman, not only I but the angels in heaven heard--and they smiled. And when he got up and kissed that woman, acting on that deep love-the angels in heaven saw them, and they laughed.

"And when the two of them joined their hands and sang and danced their joy, the angels themselves began to sing and to dance. And the Eternal Heart itself heard them, and it was warmed.

"On a Sabbath of such perfect joy, who wouldn't laugh?"

My version of this story--a re-write of a famous Hasidic tale--has appeared on my audiotape, The Forgotten Story: Tales of Wise Jewish Men.

from the website
About today's storyteller:

Many of you enjoyed and appreciated Doug's article on facing despair in a new year, Hope Is Not For The Weak Of Heart

In 1970, Doug Lipman was a discouraged teacher of very resistant adolescents. One day, he told them a story. To his amazement, they did not resist, but became deeply involved. Ever since, Doug has worked to understand exactly how storytelling evokes engagement and cooperation, and to help others learn to use storytelling for personal, interpersonal, and group transformation. 

Contact Doug at

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Slow Winter Days, and Piddling with Junk

The weather has turned back to winter after a few days of faux spring. Today I am taking advantage of the chance to hole up, not really getting into anything major. Just piddling, as my Dad would have said. After the busy, busy few days when our youngest son was here from Miami for a visit, it's felt pretty good to take some r&r. We sure miss him though--it was like old times to have him back around the house, and a real pleasure to have the chance to see our other sons too. Thank goodness the weather cooperated!

We did get in some junking time on the trip back from dropping him off at the Columbus airport, and I spent most of yesterday sorting, washing, researching and pricing. Here's a look at some of what we found--and before you ask, that basset hound is already sold nad on his way to his new home. He sure was cute, though.

 Lots of odds and ends--an aluminum juicer, a lid for a Pyrex casserole (I never pass up one of these lids because sooner or later I will end up with the casserole, needing a lid), an old metal starburst style clock, a funny "fisherman" pottery mug, corn dishes, a green Pyrex bowl, ceramic duck...

Corning casserole that I just happened to have the candle warmer cradle for, a brass crucifix,

pretty pink Depression creamer and Anchor Hocking Manhattan bowl, a pink diamondpoint shaker in need of a lid (which I probably have here somewhere),

Old pop bottles--one made in Middleport, Ohio, just across the river from us, one made in Fairmont, WV and saved back for my son who lives there, and one 75th anniversary Coca-Cola bottle, a little doll who needs some lovin', a red-headed woodpecker figurine because I can't seem to pass up birds, a silverplate heart,
 a funny, old mug made in Germany that says "I'm not greedy I just like a lot." The Tappan salt and pepper shakers will go with the Tappan stove we have for sale at our Riverbend booth.

Then there is this coal miner's lunch bucket with a cool repair to the handle and a set of aluminum camping pots that all stack together,

a set of 3 metal apple canisters, probably from the 30's, a funny short round basket, jars, a spoon holder,

 (here's that basket--it probably holds a half bushel),

a cobalt eyewash bottle,

a couple more Pyrex pieces and a Dietz lantern chimney,

 this old iron that probably isn't worth anything but it was only $1.00 and I liked it. and it works! In the background is a set of 4 Cheinco metal canisters with a mushrooms design.

Then two Mason jars to add to my growing collection. Neither of these are anything special, though.

We also hooked up with a guy who tears down buildings and have been picking up some cool things from him--old ladders, old barn doors, windows, old license plates, bottles and all kinds of assorted junk. I think this could be a beautiful relationship, if we don't get too swamped with stuff.

Getting everything cleaned up and priced takes time, and it's the kind of work that has suited me this week since I seem to be in an energy slump. So this, and eBay, have been my excuse for taking a break from painting furniture and other projects I really need to get back to. Just don't tell Larry--he really thinks I'm working!

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Winter Wondering

Some photos from our one big snow this winter.  I wonder, will we have any more?

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