While it may appear to some people (Joel) that I’m quite the bigot for being Jewish and “hating on Jews,” I’m actually rather fascinated with the whole culture behind such a conservative following in this modern society. Because of that, these rabbinical stories resonated with distinction far beyond “normal” Germanic fairytales.
From a purely mechanical standpoint, the main character is almost always a Rabbi, and he is always wise. When the tales narrate about the Rabbi’s wife, she is usually nagging and just as unappreciated as in traditional European fairytales. A lot of the Jewish fairytales identify the Rabbi by his trickery that allows him to overcome the typical obstacle of some Christian fellow or a biased judge. The major themes from these Jewish fairytales revolve around dealing with oppression, rising up out of a pit; these underdog themes reflect the culture of Judaism, which, in being such a minority, resorts to its strong sense of community and togetherness that keeps the religion and culture alive (and, thanks to Israel’s sometimes questionable actions, in the news as well). It is this community that pervades the fairytales: the Rabbi acts on behalf of his community, not to better himself.
The fairytales show that (1) regardless of current state, it could always be worse, (2) God is within you, not surrounding materials, (3) a little cunning will always beat out brute force, and (4) people share a collective thought process regardless of religion or culture. Some of these are common morals that mirror Jung’s collective unconscious theory (4) and can be applied to many other fairytales (3). (1) and (2), however, seem more unique to Jewish fairytales (not conclusive).
Perhaps the only fairytale that nearly parallels traditional fairytales is “The Rabbi Who Was Turned into a Wolf.” From the overzealous wife who wants her man, to the common theme of homoeroticism (rabbi around boys all day long), to the archetype of the wolf (carnal animal in bed+intelligent man at heart=female desire), the fairytale reeks of Germanic tradition. And who’s to say it isn’t Germanic, considering it is in the Mayse Buch, a Yiddish (Hebrew+German) collection. And in the end, the woman gets “what she deserves” for trying to cheat her husband with the Godly powers of the ring. The interplay between the Divine and the Earthly (the ring and the wishes granted to the Rabbi and his wife) further reinforces the common theme that one cannot interfere with the gods or their heavenly powers; one must rely on external forces for that (like letting the fairy godmother swoop in at the most ooportune time).