Stories We Tell: Learning About What Matters

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. 

How do you decide which of your actions matter? Can you repair damage you've done? Do you focus on what you avoid, or what you achieve? Listen to this story shared from a group of NFTY Convention 2019 participants. You can find a version of this story online at

Three ways to listen:


[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, every Thursday, we share a news story with you. To carry on that tradition this week, I'm especially proud to share a story that we created at our NFTY Convention, a conference the Reform movement held in Dallas, Texas just a couple of weeks ago for our most engaged youth, youth workers, and clergy. At the conference, we had a session called Storytelling Masterclass, and the point was to come out of it with a story. Here's the story our teens decided to share. It's called "Learning About What Matters."

[Narrator:] There once was a young boy who lost his temper quite often. One day, he lost his temper at school and was sent home by his teacher. When he got there, his zayde -- his grandfather -- asked him why he was sent home. The young boy explained that he was sent home for being rude. His zayde gave him a packet of nails and instructed him to put one in the fence every time he lost his temper over the next week. The boy went on his way with a bucket of nails zayde had given him, putting one nail in the fence for each of his bad actions. When he yelled at his sister for wanting to use his crayons, he went outside and put one nail on the fence. When he threw a tantrum and refused to clean his room, he put a second. After the first two days, the bucket was half empty. By the end of the week, all the nails were gone.

He returned to his zayde and asked, "What should I do?" His zayde instructed him to pull one nail out each time he kept his temper or did something nice. Over the next week, the boy listened and followed his zayde's instructions again. Over the next week, each time he did a good deed, he took one nail out of the fence. When he walked his elderly neighbor's dog, he took out one nail. When he brought tzedakah into school he took out another. And when he helped his sister with her homework, he took out a third. By the end of the week, all the nails were out of the fence and back in the bucket.

He returned to his zayde and said, "Look, all the nails are gone!" His zayde told him to look at the fence and said, "What do you see?".

The boy said, "Well, the fence is full of holes.".

His zayde looked at him and said, "Exactly. No matter what good acts you may do to repair the bad things you have done, the wound remains there like a hole in the fence. You hold your temper in and do good things, rather than lose it and try to atone. Our words and actions leave marks on every person we meet."

 [URJ Outro:] After hearing this story "Learning About What Matters," have you ever thought about the things that you put in, versus the things that you take out -- and which one you should count more? 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. Thanks for listening to "Stories We Tell." If you enjoyed this week's story, rate and review us 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!