Short Story Cycles

The Story-Cycles of the Bavli: Part 1

First paragraph:

I n 1990 Eli Yassif published a ground-breaking article, “The Cycle of Tales in Rabbinic Literature,” in  Jerusalem Studies in Hebrew Literature. Yassif argued that the phenomenon of the story-cycle, namely, a cluster of stories told in sequence, occurs frequently in rabbinic literature  but has largely been ignored, as scholarship has concentrated mostly on the individual tales. Yet a substantial number of stories appear within story-cycles, at least three hundred stories in the thirty-seven story-cycles that Yassif identifed of between three and forty stories each, making the story- cycle a signifcant organizing structure for rabbinic stories. Yassif posed the following questions: “What were the origins of the story-cycles? Should we view them as collections of tales recorded as they were told orally by folk storytellers, or as the literary creation of those who put them in writing? In what manner were the groupings organized and edited, and  by what artistic and ideological motivations were they inspired?”  Besides these questions, the central topic that Yassif pursued in his analysis of the individual story-cycle was “to identify its organizing principle. How can we describe the literary or ideational rationale which led the compiler to collect in one place a given set of tales and none other, in that particular order”?

from Jeffrey L. Rubenstein, “The Story-Cycles of the Bavli: Part 1,” in Jeffrey L. Rubenstein, ed., Studies in Rabbinic Narratives, vol. 1 (Providence, Rhode Island: Brown Judaic Studies, 2021), 227-280



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