Stories We Tell: The Wedding Gift

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.

When the king’s daughter gets engaged, he plans an elaborate and exquisite wedding for her. Most importantly, the king tells his oldest son that he’ll cover any expenses as long as the son shows up in the most amazing carriage, wearing the most elegant clothing and jewelry, and with his younger brother in tow, all in honor of the bride. Does the older son earn this gift from the king, or does he fall short? Rabbi Marc Katz retells the story.

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Welcome back to Stories We Tell, podcast from Judaism has always had a deep and rich tradition of storytelling, and here, every Thursday, we pass down another story that you can share from one generation to the next. This week we're going to hear the story of “The Wedding Gift” as told by Rabbi Marc Katz from Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn.

There was once a king who had two sons and a daughter, and it turned out that his daughter was the first one to get married. And so he planned for her the most elaborate and exquisite wedding that he could find. And he knew that it was very important that her two brothers show up.

And so he wrote to the oldest of the two brothers and he said to him, “Your sister is getting married. This is truly a joyous occasion. Spare no expense, I'll pay for everything. Do everything for your sister's honor: wear the nicest clothes, come in the nicest carriage, come dressed to the nines.”

And so he did. But he saw at the very bottom of the letter that it said, “And pick up your brother along the way.”

And so that oldest brother got to work. He rented the nicest suit that he could, and on top of the suit he grabbed a white cloak and he wore that—without any stains, completely flawless. He bought the nicest hat that he could find and he rented the most beautiful carriage pulled by the most wonderful white horses. And as he got ready to go, he did exactly what his father asked.

He swung by his younger brother's house and he picked him up. However, this older brother who was so concerned with doing everything to the nines, forgot to tell his younger brother that he was coming. And when he pulled up he was already running a little bit late for the wedding, so he said to his brother, “You need to go.”

Now his brother wasn't wearing nice clothes, in fact, this brother didn't have very much. And his brother had to show up at the wedding in kind of tattered, gross clothing. And there was only enough room in this carriage for one person. And so because he hadn’t rented another carriage, the brother had to trudge behind the carriage, walking through the mud and gook, ruining his shoes and making himself dirty up to his knees.

Now, both arrived at the wedding and the older brother who was dressed to the nines danced and had a wonderful time with the younger brother sulking in the corner. The younger brother was embarrassed about the way that he looked, about the way that he smelled, about his appearance. And in fact, he looked out at this crowd of all these people enjoying themselves. And frowning, he knew that he could not partake.

Now the wedding ended. It was truly a wonderful affair, and both brothers headed back to home. And as you would expect, the older brother taking his father up on his very generous offer, wrote him a letter. And he catalogued every single expense: the white cloak, the new suit, the hat, the carriage, the white horses. And he waited.

And the day arrived when his father sent him a letter back, and he opened it up expecting to see money, only to see a letter his father had written him.

“When I asked you to dress up for your sister, I asked you to do it for her honor. And you dressed up exactly as I asked you to do. But truly, if you had done everything for your sister's honor, you would have dressed up your younger brother as well. Since you did nothing for her honor and everything for yours, I will not pay for anything. You are stuck with the bill.”

So after hearing this story, “The Wedding Gift,” we’re wondering if there are times when you've thought more about yourself than others. And in hindsight, did you notice it or did someone else point it out?

If you want to share that with us a little bit 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, please rate and review us on iTunes. And you can always find new episodes every Thursday on Or, 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. And until next week l’hitraot.