Stories We Tell: God is Missing

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. 

Two brothers, Jesse and Bryan, got into trouble almost everywhere they went. At one point, their mother sent them to a rabbi, who asked them "where's God?" - causing panic in one of the brothers. Why do you think the panic ensued? You will hear the answer in this story told by Rabbi Evon Yakar of Temple Bat Yam in South Lake Tahoe, and North Tahoe Hebrew Congregation of Tahoe Vista, CA.

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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 week we share a new story with you to carry on that tradition. This week Rabbi Evon Yakar, the rabbi at Temple Bat Yam in South Lake Tahoe California and North Tahoe Hebrew Congregation and Tahoe Vista California shares the story of "God is Missing."

[Rabbi Evon:] Growing up, we all know those friends, those people in our circle of social connections, who are the ones who just always seem to get in trouble. This story is about two brothers, Jesse and Bryan. Jesse was about two, two and a half years older than his younger brother Bryan. And everywhere they went --sports teams, art classes after school, in school, Hebrew school, at their friends' homes -- they were always getting into trouble. Their mother, Barbara, didn't know what to do anymore. She had talked to all the teachers, every administrator at the school. She finally decided she was going to reach out to the rabbi, so she picked up the phone and she made an appointment with Rabbi Josh. She was able to get in the next day to see the Rabbi, and she went in for the meeting and she started talking about all the things that are going on, how much she loves her boys Jesse and Bryan, and how often they're wonderful to be around. But every so often, they just push the boundaries just a little too far, and they're always getting into trouble. Their reputation is really starting to follow them as they move up in school. The new teachers know that, "uh, here come the Leifer boys Jesse's in my class." Rabbi Josh and Barbara chatted for quite a while. They spent almost an hour together, exploring all the strategies, all the ways to help Jesse and Bryan understand the repercussions of their actions, how decisions that they made could change things.

And Rabbi Josh finally came to an idea. He said, "You know what? We have some good strategies, but I think Rabbi Mike, who's down the street at Shir Shalom, he really understands this age group, he really understands the age that your boys are right now. And I think he might have some really good ideas." Barbara, not wanting to miss an opportunity to find a solution to help her boys become the great young people that she knows they can be and they have the potential to be, she picks up the phone as she's leaving Rabbi Josh's office and she calls down to Rabbi Mike. And she's able to get in the next day and the next morning.

But Rabbi Mike had a different plan than Rabbi Josh. He said, "Bring the boys with you."

And Barbara said, "Well, we'll have to take them out of school."

And he says, "It's OK, you'll be a little bit late for school, and I think this is important." And so, Barbara agreed.

And they make the appointment, and the next morning Barbara wakes the boys up. "Jesse, Bryan, we have an important meeting this morning. We're going to go see Rabbi Mike, you know, the rabbi down the street. It's only like three blocks from our house."

"OK, fine. What are we going to see him about?"

"Oh, we're just going to chat about being a family and in the ways that we respect each other and listen to each other."

So, they walk into Rabbi Mike's office, and Rabbi Mike says, "Look, let me have a conversation with all of you to start." And so, they all came in. The three of them sit down and they chat a little bit, chat about their lives, the sports they play, the activities they're in; Jesse plays the clarinet and Bryan plays the guitar. Finally, Rabbi Mike says, "You know what? Let me meet with Bryan. Let's have a conversation." Barbara and Jesse go sit on a nice couch right outside the rabbi's office, and Rabbi Mike and Bryan are left in the office together. And they're seated across from each other, and Rabbi Mike picks up a chair, and he comes and sits about five feet from Bryan with no table between them, just so they can chat, one person to another.

And Rabbi Mike says, "Bryan, where's God?" Bryan doesn't quite understand the question. He starts to squirm in his chair a little bit. Rabbi Mike, getting a little impatient because Bryan doesn't respond, doesn't say anything, asks the question again: "Bryan, Where's God?" Bryan again, a little more uncomfortable, starts to squirm a little bit more in his chair, doesn't know what to say -- what's this rabbi asking me about, where is God, what's going on? What did I do? Uh-oh, did I do something?

And Rabbi Mike, getting more impatient, now says "Bryan. Where's God?" Bryan, even more uncomfortable now, starts to squirm in his chair a little bit more. Rabbi Mike, even more uncomfortable, more impatient says "Bryan, where is God?" Just then, Bryan jumps out from his chair, he runs out of the office, he runs past his mom and his brother Jesse, [he] knows the three blocks home and he runs right home, runs right upstairs into his bedroom and goes into the closet. Jesse and Barbara look at each other. "Oh my gosh what's going on?" They look at Rabbi Mike, and then they run home thinking that maybe that's where he is. And they're right, of course.

And Jessie says, "Mom, mom, I know, I know where he is! I know where he is!" And he runs upstairs, he goes into the closet.

He says, “Bryan what happened? What's going on?” He finds him in that closet.

And Bryan says, “God's missing! And they think we're to blame!”

[URJ Outro:] After hearing the story “God is Missing,” I guess I'm wondering if you've ever been in a situation where people assume that they know who you are, such that it comes down to defining who you are in a way that may not always be fair? And if you'd like, 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 or review on iTunes. And you can always find new episodes every Thursday on, 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!