Stories We Tell: The Fate of the Flour Woman

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.

When things go a direction we might not expect, is it thanks to fate or simply coincidence? This week, Rabbi Phyllis Sommer of Am Shalom in Glencoe, IL tells the story of a woman, her bag of flour, and the unexpected journey it took her on.

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[URJ Intro] Welcome back to Stories We Tell, a podcast presented 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 share a new story with you to carry on that tradition. This week, we're going to hear a story from Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, the director of congregational learning at Am Shalom in Glencoe, Illinois. She's going to share the story of "The Fate of the Flower Woman."

[Rabbi Phyllis Sommer] Once there was a woman who lived in Israel near the sea. Every day, she baked four loaves of bread. She would give three of the loaves to people in need. And she'd keep the fourth one for her family.

One day, after she'd given away three of the loaves of bread, a fourth person came to her door. What could she do? So she gave that person the fourth loaf of bread. And then she realized that she had no more flour in her barrel to bake another bread. So she went off to the store to buy some more. She walked along the seashore, humming to herself. After she had picked up the sack of flour from the store, she put it onto her head to carry it and began to walk back home.

Suddenly, the sky grew dark, and a storm rose up. A great gust of wind whirled around her head and blew the sack of flour off of her head and out to sea. Well, she ran after the sack, shouting, what did I do to deserve this injustice? How will I feed my family? But there really wasn't anyone around to hear her. So she turned away from the sea and started to walk back home.

But on the way home, she changed directions. And instead of walking home, she walked all the way to Jerusalem, and she went straight to the palace of King Solomon the Wise. When the guards saw how determined she was, they let her right in to see the king. She began to tell the wise King Solomon all about the sack of flour and the gust of wind.

But as she was just about finishing her story, there was a great big commotion as 10 sailors carrying 10 sacks of gold burst into the room. We want to give these sacks of gold to the person who saved our lives, one of them said. King Solomon listened with great interest. How did this person save your lives? the King said.

Well, we are traveling merchants. And we were sailing close to the harbor when our ship began to sink. There was a hole, and we were sinking fast. The ship would have sunk, and we would have drowned. But just as suddenly, the water stopped flooding in.

We examined the hole, and we saw a bag of flour there. The flour had mixed with the water, and it made a dough. And the dough plugged up the hole and stopped the water from flooding our ship. This sack of flour saved us. So we want to reward the person whose sack it is. We were told to come to Jerusalem because you are the wisest king, and you would be able to help us.

A sailor pulled the sack out of his pocket and handed it to the king, who laughed as he turned to the woman. Would you recognize your sack? he asked. Of course, she said. My name is on it. The king examined it. And lo and behold, there was her name.

King Solomon said, of course, it is you who deserves the reward from these grateful sailors. Your sack of flour saved them. Without it, they surely would have drowned. And so she took the gold. She bought a lot more flour and was able to feed everyone in need.

[URJ Outro] After hearing the story "The Fate of the Flour Woman," has there ever been something in your life that you really felt like was dependent on fate? Or was it just coincidence? I'd love to hear about that a little bit. You can find us on social media 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'hitorat.