Stories We Tell: Bundle of Sticks

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 was once a group of friends who were very close. But as they grew up, each went their separate ways. They came together for one last time, and they learned that alone, they can be easily broken; but bundled together, they are stronger than they ever were alone.

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Welcome 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 week we do just that. 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, and I'm the Director of Program at the Union for Reform Judaism. And the story is "Bundle of Sticks."

There once was a group of friends that had become very, very close over the years. One helped the others make their way through school when it was easy for him, but harder for some of the rest. One of them gave comfort when hard things happened along the way -- parents who had gotten ill, or breakups with boyfriends and girlfriends, partners who had become serious -- and sometimes less so. One was a realtor eventually, and helped each of them invest in good properties that would benefit them as they grew older. A fourth, he was the trickster, but always made them laugh and laugh in a way that they didn't with almost anyone else. And they counted on him to keep them in good spirits, and he delivered every time. But along the way, as their lives happened and they grew older, they didn't spend quite as much time together. Nobody was angry. Nothing had happened. But they did fall away a bit as family and children and work and life just seemed to spread them farther from one another.

And as sometimes happens, perhaps in the hardest way, one of their friends became ill -- quite ill, and it became clear that she was going to die. And she called them altogether for just one last time to laugh and to share ideas and to make just a few more memories. All five of them, all together, all at once. And while they were so sad to know the reason, they all decided to go to be by her side and to be together. They had spent a few days together, when eventually she said "Here is the last thing I want of all of us.".

They knew that sometimes she was the wisest in the room, and so they listened very carefully. They were surprised a bit when she pulled out a bunch of sticks wrapped together from a drawer near where she was sitting, and she looked at them and said "Pass this bundle around. Each of you take it for a bit, and do me a favor. I want you to try to break it."

They looked at each other, and they looked at her, and they weren't sure what to do. But again, because they trusted her and loved her, they wanted to do right by her toward the end. And so they did. They each passed it from one to the next trying to break the bundle of sticks -- but could not. And it made its way back to her, whereupon she untied the bundle and took out each of the sticks and broke them each into two. And then she looked at them, and they knew what she was sharing with, as always, all of her wisdom. "We won't always be able to be together. We will always have things that may get in our way, and sometimes even things that mean that, well, that we cannot be together -- at least not here. Not like this. But if we always try to stay together, stay bundled in real life moments or in memories, it means that we will always be stronger together for it." And then from then on, that is what they did. They just stayed bundled, because they knew she was right.

After hearing this story "Bundle of Sticks," I'm wondering who are the people that you bundle yourself up with, and who are the ones that would want you to be connected to them? If you want to share that with us a little bit, we'd love to hear about it on social media. You can find us on Facebook at, and on Twitter our handle is @ReformJudaism. Thanks for listening to "Stories We Tell." If you enjoyed this story, rate and review us on iTunes. 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. Until next week -- l'hitraot!