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Jewish Children's Story: The Soap Maker and the Rabbi, Dr. Terry Harman

Updated: Mar 20

Handmade soap

Jewish children's story. A rabbi and a soap maker once went for a walk together. The soap maker said: “What good is Judaism? Look at the trouble and misery in the world, after thousands of years of teaching about goodness, truth, and justice, and peace, after all the study of Torah, and all the sermons on Midrash, and all the fine ideals of the Prophets! If Judaism is so wonderful and true, why should this be so?”

The rabbi said nothing. They continued walking, until he noticed a child playing in the gutter. The child was filthy with soot and grime. Then the rabbi said: “Look at that child. You say that soap makes people clean but see the dirt on that youngster. What good is soap? With all the soap in the world, that child is still filthy. I wonder just how effective or helpful soap is after all?”

The soap maker protested and said, “But Rabbi, soap can’t do any good unless it is used.” “Exactly!” replied the rabbi. “So, it is with Judaism. Judaism isn’t effective unless it is applied in daily life and used!”


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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