Stories can teach character and values

Judaism is filled with books, legends, stories, quotes and even bubbemeises. Everything is to teach a lesson about life with a Jewish flavor. Sometimes we just come up with the right story or quote that fits the need at the moment. We need a little wisdom these days.

Today, there are wonderful books that give us stories or books or even movies that are great for teaching a lesson. I was looking for a story and found an old (but favorite) book titled “Once Upon a Time…Storytelling to Teach Character and Prevent Bullying” by Elisa Davy Pearmain. Here is a story focused on wisdom, flexible thinking, courage, foresight, humility and compassion. That’s a lot to learn from one story. Aesop’s Fables are wonderful for giving you the message — King Solomon makes it a little more challenging to draw out the lessons.

King Solomon and the Hoopoe Bird

King Solomon was known for solving riddles and understanding the language of every animal. Once when the Queen of Sheba was returning to her palace, King Solomon offered her a gift and she turned it into a test. She asked the king to build her a palace made entirely of bird beaks. King Solomon was worried and he called all the birds together. All of the birds came except for the Hoopoe Bird and the king was angry. He demanded the Hoopoe Bird be found and planned to punish it for disobeying.

The bird cried, “Please do not be angry with me. I have been flying about to gain wisdom so I might serve you. Let me ask you three riddles. If you can answer them, you may punish me. If I can teach you something new, set me free.” The first riddle: How long are the world and its creatures made to last? The King said they must last forever but he realized that he was changing the birds forever. The second riddle: What water never rises from the ground and never falls from the sky? The King answered that it is a tear made from sadness and he realized that the birds were crying because he was going to cut off their beaks. The third riddle: What is gentle enough to feed the smallest baby, and yet strong enough to bore holes in the hardest tree? The King knew it is the bird’s beak but he thought that he was going to take those beaks and how would the birds survive. The Hoopoe Bird knew that the King could now punish him. But King Solomon replied, “Yes, I knew the answers but I did not have the wisdom to see how my actions would affect others. You and all the birds are free to go.”

The king turned to the Queen of Sheba and she said, “This was my test and you passed. Not only are you clever, but also you are wise and compassionate. You can admit when you are wrong, and you can reward others for their wisdom. That is the greatest gift of all.”

It is wonderful to read books; however, it is even better to become a storyteller. This book gives instructions on storytelling, but I tell you from experience, it is all about practice! Being a great storyteller is a gift, but it can be learned and you must work at it. Remember, Judaism is truly an oral tradition — become a part of it!

Laura Seymour is Jewish Experiential Learning director and Camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.

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