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Stories We Tell: The Dancing Bear

Stories We Tell: The Dancing Bear

By: 
Rabbi Steven Bob

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.

All is not always what it seems, as we learn when a man from Pinsk tricks a woman in Minsk with a dancing bear and a very sweet Minchah (afternoon service). Join Rabbi Steven Bob, as he shares the tale of “The Dancing Bear”.

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Transcript:

[URJ Intro] Welcome back to Stories We Tell, a podcast presented by ReformJudaism.org. 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 week we share a new story with you. This week, Rabbi Stephen Bob, the emeritus rabbi from Congregation Etz Chaim in Lombard, Illinois, shares the story of the dancing bear.

[Rabbi Stephen Bob] Once in Minsk, there arrived a man from Pinsk, and he brought with him a large dancing bear. He took the dancing bear to the center of Minsk, right in front of the giant statue of the beat that marks the center of metropolitan Minsk. He presented the bear to the people of Minsk and said to them, "Here, I, from Pinsk, have brought a dancing bear. Aren't you impressed?"

A woman of Minsk said to the man from Pinsk, "A dancing bear-- we in Minsk are sophisticated people, not like you peasants from Pinsk. A dancing bear means nothing to us. Can your bear do anything besides dance?" And the man from Pinsk said to the woman of Minsk, "My bear can daven minchah. My bear can lead the afternoon service."

The woman of Minsk said, "I don't believe you." The man from Pinsk said, "It's certainly true." The woman of Minsk said to the man of Pinsk, "Prove it." The man said, "OK, let's make a wager." They agreed on a large wager. The next afternoon, in the great synagogue of Minsk, all the people of Minsk were gathered to see if this dancing bear could really daven minchah.

Every seat was taken. People were standing outside the building, craning to look through the windows. At the appointed time, the door to the synagogue flew open, and there was the bear, all seventh feet of him. He walked into the synagogue. In his big paw, he took up prayer book from the usher.

He lumbered up to the front of the synagogue. He stood on the bimah and looked at the congregation. The man from Pinsk nodded him, and the bear opened the prayer book, and went [GROWS], turned the page--

[GROWLING]

--all the way through the Minchah service. At the end, the people of Minsk were amazed.

The dancing bear from Pinsk could daven minchah. The dancing bear could lead the afternoon service. The woman of Minsk paid off the man from Pinsk, for the bear had daven minchah. The man from Pinsk had won the wager. The woman of Minsk said to the man from Pinsk, "How was your bear able to do that? How did you teach your bear to daven minchah?"

The man from Pinsk said to the woman of Minsk, "It was simple. I took the prayer book, opened it to the right page, and put a dab of honey on the page. I gave it to the bear, the bear licked off the dab of honey. Then I turn the next page, put another dab of honey, gave it back to the bear, and the bear, again, licked off the honey."

The woman of Minsk said to the man of Pinsk, "But the per book that your bear received from our usher certainly had no honey on it." And the man of Pinsk said to woman of Minsk, "Exactly. ' The bear opened the per book, saw no honey, and went [GROWLS], turned to page-- no honey, [GROWLS REPEATEDLY] all the way through to the conclusion of the service.

[URJ Outro] After hearing the story of the dancing bear, I guess I'm wondering if there's ever been a time in your life when you knew you'd be right, even if it meant tricking someone else. Did it feel honest? We'd love for you to share that with us. You can find us on social media at Facebook.com/ReformJudaism. And on Twitter, our handle is @ReformJudaism.

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 ReformJudaism.org.

And don't forget to visit ReformJudaism.org to learn a little bit more about Jewish rituals, or culture, or 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!

Steven Bob, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Etz Chaim in Lombard, IL, is the author of Jonah and the Meaning of Our Lives published by JPS.

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