Stories We Tell: The Power of Shabbat

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. 

A man walking on Shabbat comes across a bag of gold. Again and again, the bag of gold pleads with the man to take him home - how much good he could do with it! But the man refuses. Why would he do that and what does he end up with as his reward? And is there something you care about so much that you would miss a golden opportunity? This story is shared by Rabbi Leora Kaye, Director of Program for the Union For Reform Judaism.

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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 orally from one generation to the next, and here, each Thursday, we share a new story with you to carry on that tradition. This week, I'm going to share a story. My name is Rabbi Leora Kaye, and I'm the Director of Program for the Union for Reform Judaism. I'll be telling the story of The Power of Shabbat.

[Rabbi Leora:] There once was a man who celebrated Shabbos, the Sabbath, almost the exact same way each weekend. And it came that there was one weekend when he started to do all of his routines. He began by walking over to the synagogue, to the shul. And as he walked, he was looking all around, taking in both the nature and also all of the people that surrounded him. And he looked down and happened to see a bag of gold.

This was certainly surprising, nothing that he had ever seen before, but Shabbos was really just about to start, and he needed to get to the synagogue. And then, even a more interesting thing happened, which is that that bag of gold called out to him. It called out to him and said, “Pick me up, pick me up! I could change your entire life if you just took me home with you tonight.” But the man knew that he needed to get to synagogue. Shabbat was going to begin. He looked at the bag, he shook his head no, and he just said “Shabbos, Shabbos.”

As he walked along, he couldn't stop thinking about that bag of gold, what a curious thing it was. But he went to synagogue, he saw his friends, he laughed with them, he prayed a bit, and he wondered if that bag of gold would still be there on his way back home. And indeed, it was. Even more surprising -- that nobody else had picked it up along the way. But when he looked at it again, the bag of gold called out again and said, “Pick me up. Don't you want to pick me up? It could change your whole life. You could buy whatever you needed. You would never have a day or a moment of want again!”

But the man looked at that bag, and he shook his head no. And he said “Shabbos, Shabbos.” It wasn't his practice to hold money on the Sabbath. It wasn't his practice to do things like that. And so, he walked home. When he got home, he had a beautiful dinner with his family. Everybody was in great moods. And in fact, they went to bed that night, woke up the next morning, and on his way again to synagogue he wondered to himself, it can't possibly be that that bag would still be there. I'm certain that by now somebody must have picked up that whole bag of gold.

But in fact, when he walked by it again, there it was calling out to him again, “What kind of fool are you that you would walk by me for a third time and not pick me up? You would be able to take care of your friends, your family, everything that you wanted, all of those mitzvot, those obligations, that you've always wanted to fulfill. You'd be able to do so many things if you just picked me up!”

But the man again shook his head. “No, no, Shabbos, Shabbos,” he said out loud to both the bag of gold and himself.

He got to the synagogue. He prayed again, he sat with his friends again, and this continued throughout the day. He walked home. The bag was there. He decided to go back again the last time at the end of the Sabbath for the final concluding blessings. And as he walked by the space, the bag was there again. “This might be your last chance,” the bag said to him. The gold called out to him, twinkling in a very, very special and provocative way. And yet, he shook his head. “No, Shabbos.”

When he got to the synagogue, he ended up sitting next to a friend of his, a good, close friend. And as services finished off, he started to tell him all about the story. He said, “You'll never believe what happened to me. On my way to synagogue last night, there was a bag of gold!” And he told him all of the things that had happened, how it had been there when he walked home, when he came back, when he walked home, when he came back, and again when he walked to the synagogue this evening.

And the friend said to him, “Well, let's run, let's go see if it's still going to be there.” There's no way it's going to still be there, the man thought to himself. And his friend agreed. The likelihood that that bag of gold was still there was really very slim. And in fact, when they got to the spot where the bag had been, it was gone.

The man was a bit disappointed. The friend was incredulous. “I mean, how could you have walked by it so many times and not picked it up? How is this possible? What is it that you have now? You could have had so much. You could have had so much in your life if you had just picked up that bag of gold. And now what do you have?” And the man looked at his friend. And this time, in a good way, he said “Shabbos, Shabbos.”

[URJ Outro:] After hearing the story “The Power of Shabbat,” I'm wondering if there's anything in your life that you care about so deeply that you might even give up other opportunities just so you can hold that one sacred. 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, including culture, 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!