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Jewish Children Story: The Dishonest Carpenter, Dr. Terry Harman

Updated: Mar 21

biblical carpenter working with his tools.

The Jewish children's story helps us to understand the impact of dishonesty in the workplace and the value of honesty and integrity.

In a city in Spain there lived a carpenter who was a fine craftsman and builder, but he had one fault. He was very greedy for money. The mayor of the city knew what a fine carpenter and planner of houses he was, and so he gave him many houses to build.

His plans and designs were beautiful, but he used cheap materials in the structure of the houses. True, the houses stood up very well, but he made extra profits because he did not put in materials as good as they should have been for the prices the city paid for them.

After twenty years of such work the mayor assigned him an especially beautiful private home to build, but the mayor did not say for what purpose he wanted the house built, except to comment that it would serve as a private dwelling for an honored citizen. By this time the carpenter had grown very greedy. Again the plan for the house was very beautiful. But the materials he put into this house were very poor indeed. You could not tell that from the outside, however, because the architect made sure that the outside looked beautiful.

When the house was finished, the mayor prepared a banquet and invited all the important people of the city to dedicate the house, and to make the presentation to the honored citizen who was to occupy it. AT the banquet the mayor arose and made the following speech:

“For twenty years our chief carpenter has serve the city faithfully. And so the members of the city council decided to honor him. Therefore we gave him a commission to build a private dwelling, as beautiful as it could be made. We are happy at this moment to say: Dear architect, this house you have built, so beautiful and so enduring and strong, is yours, as a reward from our city for your long labors!”

This story was first given to me in the mid 1980s by Rabbi Minard Klein, of Blessed Memory.We were serving as Chaplains at the Shapiro Developmental Center in Kankakee, Illinois.

I miss our Tuesday morning times of Torah study, discussion and of course a little nosh!

The story is taken from an out-of-print book by Certner, Simon. (Ed.). (1961), 101 Jewish Stories for Schools, Clubs and Camp. New York: Jewish Education Committee Press.

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