One Shabbos afternoon, Reb Reuven called me into his study. He was sitting behind his desk and motioned me to take the chair across from him. A volume of the Zohar was lying open in front of him.
“Do you know what the Zohar is?” he asked.
“Of course,” I said. “It is a mystical commentary on Torah written by Moshe de Leon, a thirteenth century Spanish kabbalist who....”
“Nonsense!” he yelled at me, half rising out of his chair. “The Zohar isn’t just a commentary; it’s a Torah all by itself. It is a new Torah, a new telling of the last Torah. You do know what Torah is, don’t you?”
Suspecting that I didn’t, and afraid to invoke his wrath a second time, I waited silently, certain that he would answer his own question. I was not disappointed.
“Torah is story. God is story. Israel is story. You, my university-educated soon-to-be a liberal pain in the ass rabbi, are a story. We are all stories! We are all Torahs!...Listen, Rami,” Reuven said in a softer voice. “Torah starts with the word b’reisheet,* ‘Once upon a time!’”
—Rami Shapiro, Hasidic Tales
* Conventionally translated as “in the beginning” or “with beginning” or “when God began…”.