5 Jewish Stories for National Tell-a-Story Day
Friday is National Tell-a-Story Day in the United States, and you know who loves telling a good story? The Jewish people! So much of what our rabbis, cantors, and educators do can be described as storytelling, from sharing divrei Torah (literally, “words of Torah”) about the weekly Torah portions to teaching Midrash (story-based commentary about Torah and Jewish values).
A year ago, we celebrated National Tell-a-Story Day by announcing the launch of our new podcast, Stories We Tell. Rabbi Leora Kaye, our podcast producer, wrote of the new project, “This deep and rich tradition of storytelling – of passing down stories from one generation to the next – is a beautiful part of Judaism… Each [episode], we hope, will transport you to that place where you are a king or a queen, a merchant or a buyer – perhaps a young child or someone who is very, very old. And each one will offer you the chance to think about the choices you make and how you make them.”
And indeed, it has. We’ve been bowled over by the positive feedback to the podcast and are thrilled to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Stories We Tell by sharing with you our top five most popular episodes.
- The Wooden Bowl: When a wealthy older man decides to retire, he gives his business and home to his son. The son is so grateful, and it shows in his actions. But when he has a son of his own, and grows busier with work, his actions start to change. Does he ever make time for his father again? Cantor Ellen Dreskin tells the story that teaches an important lesson about expressing gratitude and caring for those who care for us.
- The Bird Trap: A happy little girl sits with her mother, but her mother is confused: why is the girl happy, even though she knows her brother did something that upset her? The girl’s answer teaches an important lesson about the difference between praying for something, and taking action. Rabbi Leora Kaye retells the story.
- How to Give a Blessing: A man wandering the desert grows thirsty, tired, and hungry, but for miles, all he sees around him is sand. Finally, he comes upon an oasis: a puddle right next to a big, lush tree. After relaxing for a bit, he gathers some branches for building fires and fruit to sustain him for the rest of his journey. Before he leaves, he wants to offer the tree a blessing in return for what the tree has given him. What kind of blessing can he leave for a tree that is already tall, grounded, and lush? Rabbi Marc Katz of Congregation Beth Elohim retells the classic story.
- The Shabbat Candlesticks: Rabbi Yechiel had a pair of candlesticks, and they were his most prized possessions. Every Shabbat, he would shine them until they sparkled and place them on his table. One Shabbat, the candlesticks weren’t there! Rabbi Yechiel looks all around town for them, but when he sees his candlesticks through the window of a poor family’s home, what does he do? Rabbi Leah Berkowitz tells the story.
- Banquet in Heaven: A righteous person was invited by God to see a preview of the world to come. He entered a celestial palace and saw a large banquet table filled with delicious food, but nobody around the table was eating. They were obviously hungry, so why weren’t they touching the food? In another room in the same palace he sees the same table piled high with food, but in this room the people around the table are joyous. What happened differently between the two rooms? Find out in this story, retold by Cantor Ellen Dreskin.
What has been your favorite episode of Stories We Tell? Is there a story you hope to hear us tell on the podcast in the future? Leave us a comment and let us know!