Stories We Tell: Ezra's Sparkle

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. 

Rabbi Shapiro shares the story of Ezra, who tried and tried to find his special talent. Listen to find out what he learned. Do you know what it is you do best? How did you find it?

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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 Mark Joseph Shapiro shares the story of "Ezra's Sparkle." Rabbi Shapiro is the Rabbi Emeritus of Sinai Temple in Springfield, Massachusetts.

[Rabbi Mark:] Ezra was the youngest child in a very talented family. He had a brother who could stand on his head and whistle, a sister who could sing beautifully. And Ezra had a mother who could do wonderful things with her hands -- she could repair anything with a needle and thread, she made beautiful quilts. And his dad could work as hard as any dad could work, and in addition, his dad grew wonderful huge pumpkins. Ezra liked to tell stories -- or at least make stories up in his head. But he was too shy to share them out loud. One day, his grandmother was sitting with him, and his grandmother noticed that Ezra seemed out of sorts, sad. "What's the problem," she said, "Ezra?"

"Well, I look at the whole family," Ezra responded, "and I'm sad."

"And why's that?" his grandmother asked.

"I'm sad because they all do something special, and I can't do anything special!".

His grandmother paused, smiled, and then explained. "Well you know what it is, Ezra? You just haven't found your gift yet! Everybody has a gift. Everybody has something that makes them shine, that makes them sparkle. You just need to listen hard and see what makes you tingle and be proud of yourself. You'll find it."

For the rest of the week, Ezra tried. He actually did some handstands with his brother, and whistled as well as he could. He tried to sing along with his sister, helped his dad at work, and worked with his mother in the kitchen, but he still didn't feel any sparkle.

One night though, the whole family was sitting around a beautiful fire out on the lawn, a beautiful campfire. And it was so nice, so quiet, that Ezra’s grandmother said, "You know, it was family times like this when I was growing up when my mother used to tell stories -- of a night like this. She used to tell the best stories a person ever heard."

Everyone heard grandma say that, and there was a kind of silence. And then finally Ezra said, "I know a story, I know a story, Grandma!"

And Ezra began to tell a story. There were villains in it, and good people in it, and there was a monster. There were shadows. There was excitement. There was great drama in it. And as Ezra told this story that had been stuck inside his head for so long, everyone in the family stopped whatever they were doing to listen. Mama put down her needles. Dad stopped working on one another of those pumpkins. His brother came in and stopped doing those handstands. His sister stopped singing. Everyone just listened. He told the whole story. There was total silence at the end.

 And wouldn't you know it: Ezra felt a kind of shiver of excitement. He thought he must almost be shining as bright as the full moon. Ezra had found his sparkle. Everyone loved his story! And then as his grandmother said, "Ezra, you're shining tonight. Have you got another story? Ezra, well, he was shining, he was sparkling. He smiled at his grandmother and he began once again. "Once upon a time..." Another story from Ezra.

[URJ Outro:] After hearing the story of "Ezra's Sparkle," the question of whether or not you know what you do best and how to share it came up around here. If you want to share that with us, we'd love to hear about it on social media. You can find us at, and on Twitter our handle is @ReformJudaism. Thanks for listening to "Stories We Tell." If you enjoyed this week's story, rate and review us on iTunes you can always find new episodes every Thursday 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!