Stories We Tell: The Feather Pillow

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’s the difference between a story and gossip? Sometimes all it takes is a clever rabbi and an open window to find the answer. Join Ari Mosbacher as they share the tale of a man, a rumor and The Feather Pillow.


[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome back to Stories We Tell, a podcast from Judaism has always had a deep and rich tradition of storytelling, passing our stories orally 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, we had the opportunity to hear a story from Ari Mosbacher, they are a URJ intern through the Clip program, and a Rutgers student during the year. And they shared the beloved story of The Feather Pillow.

In the town of Pinsk, there lived a man who loved to gossip. He knew it was wrong, but he figured it was harmless, as most of the stories he was telling about other people were true. One day, he learned a weird but true fact about a local businessman and began to spread that fact around, as he had done so many times before. The local businessman heard the rumor that was being spread around and became upset because he was losing customers.

So he went to the local rabbi and said to the rabbi, is there anything you can do to help? This is ruining me. This is ruining my reputation. The rabbi said, of course, bring the storyteller to me, and I will see if I can help things. So the rabbi summoned the storyteller and said to him, storyteller, you must understand that what you're doing is wrong.

The storyteller said, I might know that. But I thought it would be insignificant because what I'm saying is true. The rabbi said, well, whether or not it's true, or if you believe it to be true, it's still wrong. The storyteller thought for a long moment and then said, I-- I think I understand. And I am sorry. Is there any way I can fix this to somehow undo the hurt that I've caused? The rabbi said, I think I might know a way actually. Do you own any feather pillows? The storyteller, taken aback at this, said, I do, but I don't understand what that has to do with anything. The rabbi said, you will learn. Bring me a feather pillow. The storyteller was completely confused but acquiesced and went to get a feather pillow.

He brought it back to the rabbi and she said, now that you have this, please go to office, open the window, and tear the feather pillow open. Make sure that there are no feathers remaining in the pillow. Again, the storyteller was confused. But he did as she requested. He went to her office, opened the window, and tore open the pillow. Feathers went everywhere-- in the books, behind the shelves, out the window, into the street below, everywhere.

Once this was done, he went back to the rabbi and said, I've done what you've asked. Now what? The rabbi said, the next thing that I need you to do is to go and pick up each and every one of those feathers. The storyteller was shocked. But rabbi, that's impossible. The feathers are everywhere-- between the books, behind the shelves, out the window, into the street. How can I possibly pick up all of those feathers? She said, aha, now you see. Now you understand that what you've said you cannot unsay. What you have done you cannot undo. Again, the storyteller was shocked. But he understood. And from that day on, he only told stories about himself, about the things that had happened to him, and the things that he had experienced, like the story of the feather pillow.

After hearing the story of the feather pillow, I'm wondering if there have been times when you've done something that you couldn't take back, but you wished you could. If you want to share that with us, you can do so on social media. You'll 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, our culture, our 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!

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