Stories We Tell: Chiribim and Chiribam

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 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.

Years ago, the Chiribim and Chiribam families were enemies--but, the feud had been going on for so long that nobody could even remember how it began! Eventually, the rabbi decided that he would bring the families together and urge them to make peace. He asked both families to meet him in the forest, but after forgetting his glasses, the plan became difficult to carry through. Was the rabbi able to bring the families together? Cantor Rosalie Boxt retells the story. You can find a written version of the story in Stories for Peace by Mark Binder.

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Welcome back, everyone, to Stories We Tell, a podcast from As we say each week, Judaism has 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 one with you. This week Cantor Rosalie Boxt, the director of worship for the URJ, shares the story of Chiribim and Chiribam.

Years ago in a very unique village, there were two major families: the Chiribim and the Chiribam, and they were enemies. They fought about everything! They fought about the land, they fought about the water, they fought about cows, and chickens, and horses, they fought over air. And they were very stubborn. The Chiribim and Chiribam didn't talk to each other, didn't look at each other. Whether in a synagogue, or out in the village square, in meetings, they would sit opposite each other and glare or shout or scream.

And this feud had been going on for years, decades, maybe even centuries. No one even could remember—how had this fight began? What started it? What insult had provoked the first Chiribim to scorn the first Chiribam? It was so very long ago.

Rabbi Kibitz was the oldest and wisest of the leaders and he was tired of it. He was tired of the malice and hatred and all of the tension and fighting. So he decided to solve the problem. The Chiribim and Chiribam needed to come together to work out their differences. They were farmers, they worked the land. And they were neighbors living so close but yet so far apart.

So it happened in those days after a long rain, everyone in the village would go out into the woods to pick mushrooms. Brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmothers, grandfathers. Everybody would go together to pick mushrooms for their lunches. They would bring empty baskets and they would hunt for wild treasure mushrooms. The little ones would find lots of different kinds of funguses, and the older ones would teach them which ones were delicious, which ones were disgusting, and which actually were poisonous and might kill you.

So during the rainstorm, Rabbi Kibitz sent a note to the Chiribim asking them to join him for lunch in the forest after the rain. He also sent a note to the Chiribam asking them to join him for lunch in the same place at the same time, thinking he could bring them back together secretly.

Early the next morning as the rain finished, the rabbi pulled on his boots, put a basket over his arm, and marched into the forest. Finally, he would reunite these families. His plan was first to find the Chiribim, and then he'd find the Chiribam, and they would work it all out. But unfortunately Rabbi Kibitz forgot his glasses so he was having a bit of a hard time seeing where he was going. Soon, he came upon a group of people. “Chiribim?” He asked them. They shook their heads. “Chiribam.” They answered.

Sighing, the rabbi continued his search. He decided to change his tactics. He would meet with the Chiribam first, and then the Chiribim.

Soon he came upon another group of people. “Chiribam?” He asked them. They shrugged. “Chiribim.”

“Hmmmm,” the rabbi muttered, wandering off. “Chiribim, bam, bim, bam, bim, bam.”

Another group of people were asked: “Chiribam?” and they answered Chiribim. The next group were asked, “Chiribim?” And they answered “Chiribam.”

The rabbi was getting frustrated. “Ay, chiri biri biri bim bam bam. Ay, chiri biri biri bim bam bam!” Back and forth the rabbi went, racing through the forest. If he asked, “Chiribim?” They told him Chiribam. “If he asked “Chiribam?” They told him “Chiribim.”

The Chiribim and Chiribam were stubborn. They loved an argument. Neither group liked to admit to anything. Maybe they were playing tricks on the rabbi, or just being stubborn?

“Bim!” The rabbi shouted. “Bam,” they answered. “Bam?” The rabbi squeaked. “Bim,” came a chorus.

“Ah, bim bam bim bam bim bam.” He began to spin about. He asked another group, “Bam?” “Bim.”

“Bam?” “Bim.” Impossible!

“Bim.” “Bam.” “Bim.” “Bam,” “Bim.” “Bam!” The rabbi was running and twirling, almost dancing. “Ay, chiri biri biri bim bam bam,” his hair was everywhere, his coat was flying open.

“Ay, chiri biri biri bim bam bam. Ay, chiri biri biri bim bam bam. Ay, chiri biri biri bam.”

Well, the Chiribim and the Chiribam started laughing. They couldn't help themselves. Their Rabbi, this wise old man, was acting like a chicken with his head cut off. Like a frog trying to escape a pack of curious children. All the time he was muttering to himself, “Chiri bim bam bim bam bim bam,” and they laughed and they grinned and they smiled as they listened. And they suddenly looked up. Across the forest they saw something they had never seen before.

They saw each other smiling and laughing and grinning, and they looked at each other and they realized they all wore the same kind of clothes. They had the same hats and shoes, they all had baskets of mushrooms ready for their picnic. So the Chiribim and the Chiribam came together in the middle of the forest, and shook hands and they kissed cheeks and they hugged. And of course they had lunch. It was very delicious.

When they were done they lifted their poor confused Rabbi up on their shoulders because he was a little too dizzy to walk still. And together they carried him back to the village singing, “Ay, chiri biri biri bim bam bam. Ay, chiri biri biri bim bam bam.”

From that day on they were no longer known as the Chiribim or the Chiribam, but as the Chiribim bam bim bam bim bam, Chiribim, Chiribam, Chiribim bam bim bam bim bam, Ay, chiri biri biri bim bam bam. Ay, chiri biri biri bim bam bam, Ay, chiri biri biri bim bam bam. Ay, chiri biri biri bam.

After hearing the story of Chiribim and Chiribam, we’re wondering, when have you ever found that a slight from long ago may be getting in the way of creating something beautiful, maybe even making music. If you want to share that with us we love to hear about it. Social media handles are, and our Twitter handle is @ReformJudaism. Thanks for listening to Stories We Tell. If you enjoyed the story, rate and review us on iTunes. And you can find new episodes every Thursday on, where you can always learn more about Jewish rituals and culture and 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.