Stories We Tell: My Havdalah Set

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 seen yourself as the “most” important? Have you felt your contributions mattered more than others, only to find out it actually took a group effort to accomplish your goal? This week, we’re treated to an original story by Alice Myers, actress and daughter of Rabbi Lisa Grushcow, who talks about this idea from the perspective of a havdalah set.

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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 that's what we continue to do here, sharing a new story with you every week. This week, we have something really special for you-- an original story written by Alice Meyers, an actress and daughter of Rabbi Lisa Grushcow. And not only did she write the story, she's going to tell it. Here's your chance to listen to "My Havdalah Set."

[Rabbi Lisa Grushcow] On a small table in a big house sit a candle, a box, and a cup. These items are all very special. The candle has three wicks and braided wax. The box is silver and is filled with the best smelling spices-- cloves, cinnamon, and lavender. The cup is also made from silver.

Every Saturday night when three stars appear in the sky, it's time for havdalah, the transition from shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, to a new week. These items are used. Every havdalah, Amy, the little girl who lives in the house with her parents, would carefully take the candle, the box, and the cup to the kitchen counter, where her mother would light the candle and her father would pour the wine into the cup until it just about overflowed.

But this particular Saturday afternoon, the three items were fighting. I can't wait for tonight, the box squealed. Why, asked the candle. It's not like you're the most important. The only one who should be excited is me. And why is that, the cup intervened. Well, began the candle, I am the most important, so I should be excited. You two are just lowly, small additions.

The box and the cup were not very happy to hear this, as you can imagine. Ha, laughed the cup. I am the most important. The first blessing is said over me. I symbolize happiness. You are only a candle. Your flame is vanquished when it is dipped in my contents. I am more important than you.

The box snorted, you two are forgetting something important. What with all this bickering, I am the one that brings them together as a family. They each smell me one by one, smiling at each other as they pass me. I contain the sweetness that helps them not feel sadness when we start a new week. First is the worst, second is the best, third is the one that does not impress.

The candle laughed. But you are forgetting that I am the tallest, the one that casts light and darkness over their palms. I can shed light or darkness over them. Me. The candle puffed out his chest. The box chuckled. Ever heard of a shadow?

Suddenly Amy ran in. She carefully lifted the silver trays that the three items were sitting on. Mommy, daddy, here. She placed the three things on the kitchen counter. Her mother lit the candle, and it grinned. I am taken care of first, he whispered.

Amy's father said the prayer over the wine. Amy picked up the box, sniffing its spices and passing it to her parents grinning. I make them smile. The box stuck out its tongue. They smelled the spices again. They lifted their palms to the candle. They held the cup, and Amy's parents took a sip. Even Amy tried some. I am the entryway to trying new things, the cup grinned.

Then came the magical part. Amy and her parents put their arms around each other and sang. Finally, they put out the candle's flame by dipping into the wine. Amy carefully placed the silver tray back on the small table. The three items fell asleep that night peacefully, knowing that all of them were equally important and that the most important thing about havdalah was being together. But if you listened closely, you could still hear the first three stars arguing about who was more important.

[URJ Outro] After hearing the story "My Havdalah Set," has there ever been a time when you thought it was best to be the best only to figure out later that it was probably better to be part of something even bigger than yourself? We'd love to hear about that on social media.

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'hitroat.