Stories We Tell: Something From Nothing

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 ReformJudaism.org, 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. 


Joseph, a tailor, had a beautiful coat of many colors just like the Joseph in the Torah. When his coat rips, he’s unsure of what to do next. Should he try to preserve it, or start fresh? In this beloved story retold by Cantor Ellen Dreskin, Joseph learns an important lesson about moving forward. 

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Transcript

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Welcome to Stories We Tell, a new podcast from https://reformjudaism.org. Judaism has always had a pretty rich and deep tradition of storytelling, passing our stories down from one generation to the next. And every Thursday, we continue to share a new story with you to carry on that tradition. Whether you're listening while driving to work or taking the subway or preparing Shabbat dinner or even taking your kids to school, we hope that each week will provide you with a new story to reflect on and discuss with the people in your life.

In this episode, Cantor Ellen Druskin shares the story of "Something From Nothing." It's a beloved tale, but one we think you'll like hearing from her.

Joseph was a fine tailor. He was the best tailor in all of town. And while Joseph was very careful about the way that he treated other people's clothes, quite often, he would neglect his own apparel except for one piece of clothing. Joseph had made for himself a beautiful coat of many colors, much like Joseph in the Torah. And Joseph wore his coat with its many colors and its long, flowing sleeves and its long, flowy hem. Every day, he wore the coat to and from work.

One day he was late to work, and he was running. He was running, and he tripped. He looked down. The hem of his coat, it was ripped. Oh, what was he going to do?

He came home that night, and he said to his wife, oh, look at my beautiful coat that I love so much. The hem is totally ripped out. What am I going to do?

Well, Joseph may have loved this coat, but Joseph's wife, not so much. In fact, she didn't like the coat at all. And she saw her opportunity. She said, Joseph, throw it out.

Joseph said, what? I'm a tailor. So he spent the whole night, and he cut, and he snipped, and he stitched, and he sewed. And he's made from his long, floor-length coat a beautiful, short jacket. And he loved that jacket every bit as much as he had loved his coat. He wore it not only to and from work every day, but while he was working.

And one day, he was reaching to the top shelf for that particularly beautiful spool of purple thread, and as he reached up, he heard, rip. And he looked and said, oy, there's a hole in the armpit of my jacket, my beautiful jacket that I love so much. And he hurried home and said to his wife, honey, look, there's a terrible hole in the armpit of my jacket.

And his wife said, Joseph, throw it out. Joseph said, what? I'm a tailor. So he cut, and he snipped, and he stitched, and he sewed, and he made from that jacket a lovely vest. And he would now strut to and from work every day with his thumbs in the armholes of the vest, showing everyone just how beautiful the vest was.

Well, he spent so much time wearing the vest and working in the vest, even sleeping in the vest sometimes, that the vest got very gnarly and ratty. And he finally looked in the mirror one day, and even he had to admit it was not the vest that he should be proud of. He said to his wife, oy, look at my vest. I think people in town are talking.

His wife said, Joseph, throw it out. He said, what? I'm a tailor. He cut, and he snipped, and he stitched, and he sewed, and he made from the vest a beautiful scarf. Because winter was coming on. And he would wrap the scarf many times around his neck and parade around the town, proud as could be.

Well, winter came and went. And soon it was spring. And then it was summer. And Joseph was still walking around town with a scarf wrapped around his neck. It was sweaty. It was itchy. It was smelly.

And soon he came to his wife and said, I cannot wear my beloved scarf anymore. The wife saw her chance. She said, Joseph, throw it out. He said, what, I'm a tailor. He cut, and he snipped, and he stitched, and he sewed, and he made from that winter scarf a beautiful tie. And he loved to wear the tie everywhere, especially to the most festive occasions, such as his sister's wedding.

He went to the wedding. He had a wonderful time at the ceremony and an even better time at the feast afterwards. Now, Joseph was a very neat and meticulous tailor, but Joseph was a very sloppy eater. And by the end of the wedding feast, there were mashed potatoes here, and there was gravy there, and there was chocolate pudding there. The entire tie was covered with the elements of the wedding feast.

He took the tie home and said to his wife, oy, my beautiful tie, What am I going to do? His wife said, Joseph, throw it out. He said, what? I'm a tailor. He cut, and he snipped, and he stitched, and he sewed, and he made from the tie a lovely little handkerchief, which he stuck in the pocket of his shirt with just enough of a corner peeking out, so that everyone could see.

Well, winter came around once more, and Joseph got a terrible cold. And each time that he needed to sneeze or sniffle or cough or blow his nose, he would whip out his beautiful handkerchief and [MAKES SNIFFLING SOUND] all over the handkerchief. Well, by the end of that winter season, you can imagine the state of the handkerchief.

He took it home, and he said to his wife, look at my handkerchief. What am I going to do? She said, Joseph, throw it out. He said, what? I'm a tailor. And he cut, and he snipped, and he stitched, and he sewed, and he made from that handkerchief a beautiful button, which he sewed to the inside of the waistband of his pants and used it to hold his suspenders.

Well, Joseph was late once again one morning, running to work, and he tripped yet again. He looked down. Why did he trip? His pants are falling down. Why are his pants falling down? His pants are falling down because there's no button holding up his pants with the suspenders.

Now he's really in a fix. He goes home, and he says to his wife, oh, my button, my beautiful button that I love so much, it's gone. And I don't know what happened, and I don't know what to do.

Well, his wife was a very happy woman. And she said, Joseph, I'll tell you. There's one thing I know. You may be a wonderful tailor, and you could make the coat into a jacket, into a vest, into a scarf, into a tie, into a handkerchief, into a button. You can always make something from something. But you know, Joseph, even you cannot make something from nothing.

Joseph said, what? In addition to being a tailor, I'm also a storyteller. And he went and he got a pencil and a piece of paper and wrote down the story exactly as I've told it to you today. Which just goes to show you can make something from nothing.

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After hearing Cantor Druskin share that story, we're wondering, What are the things in your life that you can cut and snip and stitch and sew to make beautiful over and over again? If you'd like, we'd love for you to share that with us a little bit on social media. You can find us at facebook.com/ReformJudaism and on Twitter, where our handle is @Reform Judaism.

Thanks for listening to Stories We Tell this week. If you enjoyed this story, rate and review us on iTunes. And you can find new episodes every Thursday on reformjudaism.org, where you can also learn a little bit more about Jewish rituals, 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. Until next week, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].