How to teach people while you entertain them: Modern-day Moshels

To those unfamiliar with the term, a “moshel” is the Hebrew term for a parable, a story told with the intent to illustrate a lesson (usually a moral or theological one). I equate moshels with the soda your mom would offer you as a chaser after taking whatever foul-tasting medicine the doctor had prescribed you. It makes it easier to get the lesson down, and you might even look forward to the next dose.

Moshels–particularly those of the Baal Shem Tov, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, and the Ben Ish Chai–are familiar to most readers with a Jewish education. They often appear in Rabbis’ drashos, and they sometimes make their way into children’s books. Several authors have recently attempted to update classic moshels and make them more appealing to tweens and teens–most successfully, perhaps, Steve Sheinkin in his entertaining Rabbi Harvey series, which take place in the Old West. One of the most challenging aspects of this genre is that you want to convey the lesson accurately without sounding pedantic, boring, or preachy. Also, some of the settings and situations detailed in traditional moshels don’t appeal to contemporary readers, or (more often) are so unfamiliar as to complicate comprehension of them.

I have my own spin on the Modern-day Moshel that I’ve been trying to market, which I’m not sharing here (because, like many authors, I’m terrified of people copying my idea before I can sell it myself–see this post). However, I thought I’d provide a heads-up to my readers what I’m thinking about right now.

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