Stories We Tell: The Brisket

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. 

There once was a rabbi who traveled to many cities, and he was often invited to stay and have meals wherever he went. Everyone was very hospitable and would ask him what he liked. However, they would then serve him the one thing he said he didn’t like: brisket! Listen to this story find out why this happened everywhere he went, and what we can learn from his experience.

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

My name is Rabbi Leora Kaye. I'm the Director of Program at the Union for Reform Judaism, and the story I'll be sharing is "The Brisket."

[Rabbi Leora:] Once, there was a traveling rabbi, and he went to all kinds of different towns and cities. And each time he would arrive, the same thing would happen. He would go, he would meet with the community, he would set up his schedule for the week or the weekend, and he would figure out where he was staying. And invariably, in each place, whether he would be staying for a day or for a week -- or a little bit longer -- he would be set up the whole time for nearly every meal, and sometimes even a place to stay! The families would invite him for dinners. The scholars might invite him for Shabbat. The youth would invite him for lunches at their schools, or sometimes they'd even have communal meals together at the synagogue. It was truly a very nice way to be treated. It made him feel so welcome, like he belonged, like they really appreciated his teaching -- and he appreciated them. However, he learned a lesson early on. For as much as the same thing happened, and almost every place, each town, each shtibel, each congregation, big or small, around the hospitality piece, the same thing also happened, well, around the meals. He was not young, nor was he old, and yet he knew what he liked and what he did not like. And he had lived with his body and his tastebuds his whole life. And the first few times he visited towns, the same thing happened over and over again, and he learned a bit of a lesson. He would arrive, they would welcome him. They would set him up with a schedule, and in each place they would ask him what foods did he like, what foods did he not like? Was there a special way he liked his seltzer? Big bubbles or small? Even, was there a specific type of pillow he might enjoy? -- if there was home hospitality. And each time he said the same thing: he was an easy man, he had simple tastes, he was happy to just be able to teach Torah, to learn, to be with their children, to be with them, the next generation. However, as long as they were asking, he said to them, "One thing: I don't really love brisket."

I know, I know! You would say, "What kind of Rabbi doesn't like brisket?!" -- but, eh, this kind. And here is what he learned. Each and every time he told a community that he didn't like the brisket, whether he was with them for a week or for a day, they served him brisket. Each place he went, the person that prepared that meal would say to him "Rabbi, I know that you told us when we asked you and when you arrived what you liked and what you didn't like. I know that you told us you don't like brisket -- but really Rabbi, it is because you have never ever had MY brisket. I promise Rabbi, now - now, you really will like brisket!" The women said this. The men said this. Even the teens would try out their newest recipes on him! And each and every time, each and every time, he would politely taste the brisket, he would eat enough bites to be gracious, and enough bites to reaffirm that he did not like brisket. Now he never told them that, he always treated them with the greatest kavod, with honor. I mean, really, they had served him a hot meal, he should be grateful! But it is also true that after a few visits to many different communities, he stopped telling them that he didn't like brisket. And he wondered if it would be too much of him, too much like a trickster, to start telling them that he didn't like chicken soup -- which he actually loved!

[URJ Outro:] After hearing the story of the brisket and the rabbi, I'm wondering how well do you really listen to what people are telling you, and how much do you believe that you might know better than they do? We'd love to hear about that a little bit. Share with us on social media. You can find us at On Twitter, our handle is @ReformJudaism. Thanks for listening to "Stories We Tell." If you enjoyed this week's story, write and review us on iTunes. And you can always find new episodes every Thursday on, where you can also go 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!