Stories We Tell: The Seed

A father and daughter go on a trip together, and on the way home they realize that something is wrong with a bolt on their wagon. When a farmer approaches and offers them anything they need, they ask him for a new bolt… will that fix it? Rabbi Leora Kaye retells the story in this episode of Stories We Tell.

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 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

The king, who is ready to retire, is holding a contest to find his successor. He gives seeds to all of the young people in the kingdom, and tells them whoever can grow the finest tree, plant, or crop will become king. A young boy with a green thumb knows that he has a real shot at winning, but no matter what he does, he can’t seem to make these plants grow. Can he make it work in time? Rabbi Matthew Gewirtz retells the story.

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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 this week, not only do we have a new story—we have a new storyteller! Rabbi Matthew Gewirtz, the senior rabbi at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New Jersey shares the story of “The Seed.”

There was this kingdom in this faraway place, and the king himself was beginning to get on in age, and he wanted to find a successor. He wanted to find the next person who would become king. And he tried to figure out what kind of contest he could hold to find the appropriate king. He thought to himself, I'm gonna have a contest of whoever it is that can grow the finest tree or plant a crop.

So he calls everyone together in the kingdom and he hands out seeds. And he says to all the kids who get seeds, “Whoever comes back a year from now with the most beautiful plant or tree or crop, that person is going to become king.”

Now at the same time in this kingdom there's a young man—oh, 12, 13 years old, who happens to have a green thumb. He can grow anything! He grows beautiful plants, he grows beautiful trees, he even has gardens that go outside of his house and does gardening for other people. And he thought to himself, this is it. This is what I do best. I'm going to be the next king.

So, sure enough, he takes the seeds that were given to him, and he does everything he can to make the seeds grow. And nothing happens. He changes dirt, he changes the pots they're put in, he changes the kind of watering that he does. No matter what he does, these seeds grow into nothing.

Well, a year goes by and it's time for the contest to be judged. The king puts out a call and all the kids line up—thousands of kids line up with the most beautiful trees: the short, the tall, the wide, the color is just gorgeous. And of course this kid is on line with his parents and he can't do anything but cry. And finally, he gets to his place with the king, and the king says, “Young man, I don't understand. What are you doing here? Where is your plant”

“King, you don't understand. This is what I do best. All year long, I put all my hard work into this plant. I've tried different water, I've tried different plants, I've tried different kinds of dirt. I put in everything I could. I put in all my integrity, all my sweat, all my hard work.” He's crying and crying and crying.

The king says, “Well, listen. What you’ve given me is what you've given me. The judgment will come tomorrow.”

Sure enough, and I wouldn't spend, of course, your time even telling the story if it weren’t this kid who won the contest. And he says, “King, I don't understand. How could I have won? I came to you with an empty pot.”

And he says, “Young man, you don't understand. I gave out boiled seeds to everyone. No one should have won this contest in that way. Everyone else who showed up with trees and plants and crops, all of them somehow stole, or they cheated, or they took from someplace else. You're the only one who took it what never could have grown, and you filled your pot with everything that's important: with honesty, with integrity, with hard work, with steadfast love, and compassion, and generosity. Young man, your pot may look empty, but yours is fuller than anyone else's here. And indeed, you're going to be the next king. All the work you put into that pot, those are exactly the same qualities, the selfsame qualities, that every king needs to be able to govern his or her kingdom, to make sure his people are safe and cared for and loved, and make sure they have a healthy society. You're going to be that king. The one that helps them flourish and find well-being, because of everything you brought to this contest and put into that pot.”

Now that you've heard the story of “The Seed,” we're curious about a time when you told the truth, even if it meant potential embarrassment for you. And how did it turn out? If you share that with us a bit we'd love to hear about it on social media. You can find us at and on Twitter, our handle is @ReformJudaism. And thanks for listening to Stories We Tell this week. If you enjoyed the story, rate and review us on iTunes. And you can always find new episodes every Thursday on, where you can also learn more about Jewish rituals, and culture, and 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.