One of the most ancient tools for communicating meaning is the simple story. Within the tradition of Judaism exists the convention of the mashal, meaning “to be like.” The more familiar Greek equivalent is the parabolē, or parable. Meshalim (the plural form of mashal) are seen scattered throughout Scripture with many faces and can function as “any type of illustration, from a proverbial saying to a fictitious story. It may refer to a proverb, riddle, anecdote, fable, or allegory. A mashal defines the unknown by using what is known. The mashal begins where the listener is, but then pushes beyond into a new realm of discovery” 
King Solomon was an expert at using the device to convey wisdom, and we see the positive form emerge as early as Genesis 10, where verse 9 contains the ancient comparison “Just like Nimrod who was a mighty hunter before Hashem” or the question, “Is Shaul also among the prophets?” (1 Samuel 10:12), which became a mashal in Israel. Meshalim also conveyed a negative function of a tragic story, a byword, satirical taunt songs of divine judgment, ascribed to individuals or nations. (Deuteronomy 28:37).
APPLES OF GOLD IN SETTINGS OF SILVER
Maimonides quotes the scriptural proverb: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (ketapuhei zahav b’maskiyyoth shel kesef) [Proverbs 25:11]
Hear now an elucidation of the thought that the Sage has set forth. The term maskiyyoth [translated as “settings”] denotes filigree traceries; I mean to say in which there are apertures with very small eyelets, like the handwork of silversmiths. They are so called because a glance penetrates through them; for in the [Aramaic] translation of the Bible the Hebrew term va-yashaqeph — meaning, he “glances” — is translated va-istekhe.” The Sage accordingly said that a saying uttered with a view to two meanings is like an apple of gold overlaid with silver filigree having very small holes.
Now see how marvelously this dictum describes a well-construed parable. For he says that in a saying that has two meanings-he means an external and an internal one-the external meaning ought to be as beautiful as silver, while its internal meaning ought to be more beautiful than the external one, the former being in comparison to the latter as gold is to silver. Its external meaning also ought to contain in it something that indicates to someone considering it what is to be found in its internal meaning, as happens in the case of an apple of gold overlaid with silver filigree having very small holes. When looked at from a distance or with imperfect attention, it is deemed to be an apple of silver; but when a keen-sighted observer looks at it with full attention, its interior becomes clear to him and he knows that it is of gold. 
HANDLES ON THE TRUTH
The power of the parabolic story is that it provided a vehicle for communication — a handle if you will — for transmitting eternal truths (regardless of whether the hearer ultimately understood the message, the story provided the optimal means to remember and transmit it.) Usually told in the third person, parables invite the hearer to interact and insert themselves into the story as they see fit and usually include a twist to drive home the point, which may or may not be clearly stated, depending upon the intent of the teller.
The Tanakh includes seven examples of story meshalim, which appear in stories of conflict.  Of these examples, only Nathan the prophet’s story of the poor man’s ewe lamb is a direct parallel to the story parables recorded in the four Gospels and later Rabbinic literature. Nathan’s mashal demonstrates the effectiveness of storytelling at pulling the listener in, even when they do not fully comprehend the hidden, underlying message. David was able to clearly see the injustice in Nathan’s story in that he pronounced a royal sentence condemning the evildoer, only to face a wave of shock and shame when Nathan uncovered the apple of gold behind the silver setting in revealing that David himself was the offender. Added to this was the accompanying horror that due to his circumstances, he was unable to carry out his own royal sentence of restitution (i.e David was unable to restore Bath-Sheba to her husband Uriah, who had been murdered in battle via his direct order.)
This idea of using meshalim to both reveal and conceal was echoed by the prophet Isaiah, “And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.” (Isaiah 6:9) who was later quoted by Yeshua of Nazareth in explaining his teaching methodology to his own talmidim.
“Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. (14) And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: …(16) But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.” (Matthew 13:13–14, 16)
Hillel the elder taught a mashal about the high priest Aaron to teach about being peaceful. “Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving every single person, and drawing each one near to the Torah.” 
R. Nathan further expounded upon Hillel’s adage of Aaron: When two men had quarreled one with the other, Aaron would go and sit with one of them and say, “My son, see what your companion is doing! He beats his breast and rends his garments, exclaiming, ‘Woe is me! How can I lift my eyes and look my companion in the face? I am ashamed before him since it is I who offended him.’” Aaron would sit with him until he had removed all enmity from his heart.
Then Aaron would go and sit with the other and say likewise, “My son, see what your companion is doing! He beats his breast and rends his garments, exclaiming, ‘Woe is me! How can I lift my eyes and look my companion in the face? I am ashamed before him since it is I who offended him.’” Aaron would sit with him until he had removed all enmity from his heart as well.
Later, when the two met, they embraced, fell on each other’s necks and kissed each other. 
We see this virtue echoed in Yeshua of Nazareth’s teaching at the Sermon on the Mount, “Happy are they who pursue peace (peacemakers), for they will be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9)
ENTER THE MAGID
The Rabbi occupied an invaluable role in Jewish oral culture as Maggid (Storyteller), transmitting eternal truths by telling and unraveling stories old and new. The birth of what later developed into Rabbinic Judaism (after the destruction of the second Temple in 70 CE.) included teachers such as Hillel, Shammai, Gamaliel, Yeshua, Hanina ben Dosa and Shim’on ben Gamaliel (among many others). These sages stepped into the role of maggid to tell stories that resonated with their audiences and served as handles to carry and transmit truth. Yeshua used this teaching technique almost exclusively during his ministry in Israel.
“All these things Yeshua spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable.” (Matthew 13:34 NASB)
CONCLUSION: THE POWER OF STORY
Yisrael Campbell  recalls whenever the Baal Shem Tov saw misfortune threatening the Jews he would go to a certain part of the forest and meditate. There he would say a certain prayer and light a fire and the miracle would be accomplished, the danger averted.
And the next generation the Maggid of Mezeritch would go to the same place in the forest and he would say, “Ribbono Shel Olam (Master of the World), I don’t know how to light the fire, but I can still say the prayer.” And it was enough.
And still later, Rabbi Moshe Lieber of Sasso would go to the forest and he would say, “I don’t know how to light the fire and I don’t know the prayer, and that must be sufficient.” And it was.
And still later, generations later, when it fell to Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhyn, sitting in his armchair, his head in his hands. He would say, “Master of the Universe, I don’t know where the place is in the forest, and I don’t know how to say the prayer, and I don’t know how to light the fire. All I can do is tell the story.”
And it was enough.
Because God made man.
Because God loves stories.
 Brad Young, The Parables: Jewish Tradition and Christian Interpretation(Baker Academic, 1995), 3
 Gila Sifran Naveh, Biblical Parables and Their Modern Recreations: From Apples of Gold in Silver Settings to Imperial Messages, (State University of New York Press, Albany, 2000), 3–4
 These are the poor man’s ewe lamb (1 Samuel 12), the Woman from Tekoa’s two sons (2 Samuel 14), the prophet’s acted parable to Ahab (1 Kings 20), the song of the vineyard (Isaiah 5), the lament of the vine (Ezekiel 19 — the only account specifically labeled a mashal), and the fables recorded in Judges 9 and 2 Kings 14.
 Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 1:12b
 A. Cohen, I. Brodie, “Abot de Rabbi Nathan” English translation found in Minor Tractates of the Talmud, (London: Soncino, 1971), 172