In the long, long ago, the Lord God searched for people to be his own.

God went to the Greeks and asked, “What can you do for me if I make you my chosen people?”

“We are gifted architects. We can build beautiful temples where people can come in great nembers from all over the world to worship you.”

“Thank you very much,” God said, and moved on.

Then the Lord God went to the Romans and said, “What can you do for me if I make you my chosen people?”

“We are great builders of roads and bridges. We will build bridges and roads so that the people can find their way to you.”

“Thank you very much,” God said, and moved on.

Then God went to the Jewish people and asked, “What can you do for me if I make you my chosen people?”

An old rabbi answered for them. “We are not gifted architects. Neither are we great builders of roads and bridges. What we can do is tell stories.”

And God said, “Then you will be my people.”

~ Sister Lillian Harrington, OSB, Benedictine Sister of Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, KS.

This story is quoted in Atchinson Blue, by Judith Valente. I heard it while at the Mount Saviour Monastery, where it was read during dinner and caught my ear. I received a copy of it just yesterday. It differs substantially from the traditional Jewish midrash, Sifre to Devarim (Deuteronomy) 33:2, which describes God offering the Torah to various nations of the world. Each asked, “What does it say?” To one nation God answered, “Thou shalt not kill.” The nation replied, “We can’t abide by that.” To another nation God responded, “Thou shalt not steal.” The nation replied, “We can’t follow that rule,” and they too rejected the Torah. Finally, God offered the Torah to the people of Israel, who responded, “We will do and we will hear.”

Since I am a Jewish storyteller, the story is especially significant to me. I wonder, where did Sister Lillian Harrington find this version? Unfortunately, she died a few days ago, on April 1, 2014, at age 96. May she rest in peace.