Stories We Tell: The Boastful Farmer

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.

Have you ever felt like you were the smartest or most important person in the room, only to realize you’re just as dependent on others as they are on you? This week, Rabbi Phyllis Sommer of Am Shalom in Glencoe, IL shares a story about a boastful farmer who had to learn this lesson himself.

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[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, Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, the director of congregational learning at Am Shalom in Glencoe, Illinois, is going to share the story of "The Boastful Farmer."

[Rabbi Phyllis Sommer] Once upon a time, a blacksmith, a shoemaker, a carpenter, and a tailor were all hanging out with their friend, who was a farmer. The farmer said to all of them, I am the most important one of all. My work is more important than any of your work. If I don't work, if I don't plow my fields, if I don't sow my seeds, if I don't harvest the crop, what will any of you have to eat?

Well, the friends we're not so sure that this was true. And they decided that they would wait and see if they could show the farmer how it wasn't true. Well, the next day, the farmer was working in the fields. And one of the wheels of the wagon broke. The farmer took the wagon to the blacksmith. Please, fix the wheel, the farmer said to the blacksmith.

No, said the blacksmith. I won't fix it. Why not, said the farmer. If I don't have this wagon, I won't be able to gather my wheat. Well, the blacksmith laughed and said, didn't you say in front of all of our friends that you were the most important of all? Now you'll have to know that the farmer depends on the blacksmith.

The farmer said, please, please, fix the wheel. And the blacksmith said, fine. If you announce that I don't depend on you, I will fix the wagon. So the farmer said out loud, everybody depends on the farmer except the blacksmith. And so the blacksmith repaired the wagon.

Well, this didn't sit very well with the shoemaker, the miller, and the tailor. So harvest season arrived. And the farmer went to the shoemaker and said to the shoemaker, will you please make me a new pair of shoes? No, said the shoemaker, I will not make you a new pair of shoes.

Why not, said the farmer. Don't you think I need shoes? You expect me to walk barefoot in my fields? And even there's thorns in them. And the shoemaker laughed and said, if you announce to everyone that the shoemaker does not depend on the farmer, then I'll make you a pair of shoes. [GROANS] The boastful farmer had to publicly declare that maybe the farmer had been wrong. And the farmer announced, everybody depends on the farmer except the blacksmith and the shoemaker.

Well, when the harvest was all over, the farmer went to the miller and said to the miller, will you please grind this wheat into flour? I will not, said the miller. First, you must announce to everybody that the farmer depends on the miller. And the farmer had to retract his earlier statement and publicly say, everyone depends on the farmer except the blacksmith, the shoemaker, and the miller.

And the same as this, the farmer went on to the carpenter and the tailor because, of course, the farmer needed their services, too. And they also refused to do anything for him until finally, finally the farmer realized he had to announce to the whole town, everybody depends on the farmer, and the farmer depends on everybody.

[URJ Outro] After hearing Rabbi Sommer tell the story of "The Boastful Farmer," I guess the question on my mind is whether or not you've ever been in a situation where you thought you knew all the details only to find out later there was a little more you could have learned. We'd love to hear what you think about that. You can share it with us on social media. You can find us at And 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. Until next week, L'hitroat.