Stories We Tell: The Fable Of The Goat

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.

What happens when a string, a note, and an innocent goat lie between you and everything you never knew you needed? Rabbi Josh Weinberg reminds us that curiosity and patience should never be overlooked through his telling of Shai Agnon's The Fable of the Goat.

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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 each week we share a new story with you to carry on that tradition. This week, Rabbi Josh Weinberg, the vice president of the URJ for Israel and Reform Judaism and the executive director of ARZA, shares Shai Agnon's well-known story, The Fable of the Goat.

[Rabbi Josh Weinberg] A long time ago in a small village far and far away lived a man with his only son. And the man grew to be very, very ill, and all of the doctors in all of the land didn't know how to cure him. His young son decided he would take it upon himself and walked through the village and asked everyone he could for a cure or something that would help his father. And finally, one of the villagers took him aside and said, you see there in the marketplace at the end of the row? Go and speak to that vendor, and he will offer you something to help.

And the little boy, of course, with nothing else to do went to the end of the marketplace and spoke to the person behind the stall, and he said, listen, behind the stall, I have a very, very special goat. And if you bring this goat back home and let your father drink of its milk, well, he will slowly be healed. And so the boy took the goat home, and he said, well actually, there is one condition before you bring this goat home is that you must never tie this goat up. You must let this goat walk freely at night, and in the morning, it will sure enough return to you. And your father will drink from its milk, and of course, begin to be healed.

So the little boy listened to what he said and he brought the goat home, and he said, Father, Father, I have wonderful news! You will drink of this goat's milk, and it will begin to heal you, except we must never tie this goat to our fence. We must let it roam free. And sure enough, as the father began to drink from the goat's milk, he began to regain his strength and he began to heal himself from his terrible illness.

And of course, as little boys do, the boy was curious to see where the goat would disappear to each night. So instead of tying the goat up to his house, he tied a small string to the tail of the goat. And as he left, the boy began to follow the goat, and the goat walked to the edge of the village and into the forest. And into the forest, he found a cave, and he walked into the cave and walked down through the cave and came out at the other end into a magical land.

It was a land of tall mountains and bright valleys, with luscious fruits growing from the trees, and he watched the goat walk up to the edge of a field and put its mouth down to drink from a river flowing with milk. And he looked up as the goat nibbled from trees with the leaves dripping with honey, and the boy was amazed by this magical land. And sure enough, as dawn broke, the little boy followed the goat back out through the river and into the cave and out through the forest to the edge of the village and back to the little house where he lived with his father. And sure enough, his father continued to drink and to become healthier and healthier and stronger and stronger.

And one day, just as dusk set in, the boy followed the goat back through the edge of the village into the forest and through the cave and out into this magical land, and the boy decided that he was going to stay in this magical place where the rivers flowed with milk and the trees were dripping with honey. And he wrote a note to his father to invite him to follow the goat, too, through to this magical place, and he placed the note squarely in the ear of this magical goat.

As soon as the goat returned to the old man, she did not flick her ears and the note did not fall. And when the old man saw that the goat had returned without his son, he clasped his hands to his head and began to cry and weep and, oy, my son, my son, where are you? My son would that I die in your stead, my son, my son! So as he mourned for his son, he said, surely an evil beast has devoured him, and surely robbers came and kidnapped my son. And he refused to be comforted and saying, every time I see this goat, it will remind me that my son has left me.

And the old man's mind, of course, would not be at peace until he sent for a butcher to come and slaughter the goat. And as the butcher came and, in fact, slaughtered the goat, the note fell out of the goat's ear. The old man picked up the note, he said, this is a note from my son! And he had read all that his son had written. He became distraught, and he said, oy vey, how could it be that I am the man who robs himself of my own good fortune?

He mourned over the goat many days and refused to be comforted and saying, woe to me for I could have gone up to this magical land, I could have gone to the land of Israel in one bound, and now I must suffer here out all of my days in exile. And since that time, the mouth of the cave has been hidden from the eye, and there is no longer a short way to this magical land. And that youth, that little boy, if he had not died, shall now bear fruit in his old age full of sap and richness, calm and peaceful in the land of his life.

[URJ Outro] After hearing the story of The Fable of the Goat, I am wondering if there's ever been a time when you regretted the actions you took that you thought really would be best. 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. 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. And until next week, l'hitraot.