Stories We Tell: The Bird Catcher

Judaism has a deep and rich tradition of storytelling, of passing down stories from one generation to the next. To carry on that tradition, Stories We Tell, from, will share a new story with you every Thursday. Whether you listen while driving to work, preparing Shabbat dinner, or taking your kids to school, each episode will give you a new story to reflect on and discuss with the people in your life. Stories We Tell is a project of the Union for Reform Judaism, a leading voice in the discussion of modern Jewish life.

This week, Rabbi Simcha Bob tells the story of a woman who catches and sells birds for a living. One day, she comes across a beautiful bird who can speak and even promises her 3 pieces of wisdom if she releases him. Through this story. Rabbi Bob compels us to think about how well we listen to the advice of others and the ways in which we impart wisdom as well.

Three ways to listen:


[URJ Intro] Welcome back to Stories We Tell, a podcast from Judaism has always had a deep and rich tradition of storytelling, passing our stories down from one generation to the next. And here, each Thursday, we share a new story with you to carry on that tradition.

This week, you're going to hear a story from Rabbi Steven Bob, the emeritus rabbi from Etz Chaim in Lombard, Illinois. He shares the story of The Bird Catcher.

[Rabbi Steven Bob] Once, in Minsk, there was a woman who made her living catching birds. Each day, she would get up and walk into the great Minsk forest looking for birds that she could catch that she could sell to the residents of Minsk.

One day, she went deeper into the forest than she had ever gone before, and she came upon a tree. And sitting beneath the tree was the most beautiful bird she had ever seen. She snuck up on the bird with her net in hand and-- whoosh-- she caught the bird. She looked at the bird. The bird looked back at her. And then the bird began to speak.

She was amazed. She spent all her life catching birds, but she'd never had a bird speak to her. And the bird said to her, if you let me go, I will teach you three nuggets of wisdom. And the woman said to the bird, why should I believe you? You're just a bird.

And the bird said to the woman, but I'm a bird that speaks. The woman thought for a moment, and the woman agreed. The woman of Minsk released the bird. And the bird said to her, here are three nuggets of wisdom. First, do not believe the unbelievable. Two, do not regret what you have done. Three, do not try to do the impossible.

The bird lifted up off the ground and flew to a branch high in the tree. The woman looked up the beautiful bird that had taught her wisdom. The bird looked down at the woman and the bird said to the woman, you shouldn't have released me. I lay golden eggs. The woman was stunned. A bird that lay golden eggs! She released a bird that lays golden eggs!

She regretted releasing the bird, and then she tried to climb the tree. She climbed up the trunk of the tree. The bird moved out on a narrow branch. She climbed out to the narrow branch. The branch broke. The bird flew away. The woman thumped to the ground.

As she was laying down on the ground, the bird flew down and spoke to her again. I taught you three nuggets of wisdom, the bird said, and you ignored all of them. I told you, don't believe the unbelievable. And yet when I told you I laid golden eggs, such an unbelievable thing, you believed it.

I told you, don't regret what you have done. And immediately, you regretted releasing me. I told you, don't try to do the impossible. And immediately, you climbed out on a branch that couldn't support your weight. I taught you wisdom, said the bird, but that's only half the process. You also have to learn the wisdom, the bird said to the woman of Minsk.

[URJ Outro] After hearing the story The Bird Catcher, I guess I'm wondering whether or not you think the woman should have listened a bit more carefully or if, in fact, it was really that the bird was kind of sneaky. We'd love to hear a little bit about that from you. Feel free to share it with us on social media. You can find us at, or on Twitter our handle is @ReformJudaism.

And thanks for listening to Stories We Tell. If you enjoyed this week's story, please subscribe and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can always find new episodes every Thursday on And don't forget to visit to learn a little bit more about Jewish rituals or culture or holidays and more.

Stories We Tell is a project of the Union for Reform Judaism, a leading voice in the discussion of modern Jewish life. And until next week, L'hitraot.