Stories We Tell: How Do You Use It

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.

Have you ever had a great idea that wasn’t useful until you applied it? This week, join Rabbi Phyllis Sommer of Am Shalom in Glencoe, IL, as she tells the story of a rabbi and a soap maker who explore this idea and realize their professions have more in common than they might have thought.

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[URJ Intro] Welcome back to Stories We Tell, a podcast presented by 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 do that by sharing 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 "How Do You Use It?"

[Rabbi Phyllis Sommer] One day, a rabbi and a soap maker were going for a walk together. And the maker of soap turned to his friend the rabbi and said, rabbi, what good is Judaism really? Look at all of the trouble and misery and difficulty in the world even after all of those thousands of years of teaching of goodness, of truth, of justice, of peace, all of the beautiful words in the Torah and the midrash, the ideals of the prophets. The world is still full of so much difficulty and sadness. If Judaism is so wonderful and good, why is this so?

The rabbi did not give the soap maker an answer. Instead, they continued walking. And as they were walking, they came upon a group of children. And the children were playing. And they were covered in dirt and mud. There was some on their faces and some on their clothes and some in their hair. They had clearly been playing together and having a great time.

The rabbi turned to her friend the soap maker and said, look at those children. You say that soap makes people clean, but those children are so dirty. What good is soap? With all of this soap in the world, those children are still filthy. I wonder just how effective, how helpful is soap really?

The soap maker said, rabbi, that's so silly. Soap won't do any good unless you use it. Aha, said the rabbi. So too it is with Judaism. Judaism isn't any good unless we apply its teachings and live by them.

[URJ Outro] After hearing the story "How Do You Use It?" have you ever had something in your life that was both practical and spiritual that worked for you? We'd love to hear about it if you want to share it with us. 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, 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, [HEBREW].