February 22, 2022

#08-191: It Could Always Be Worse

From a 1976 book that retells the story

Note: Yiddish stories often combine wisdom with humor--and they're fun to tell!

Get Ready: What would make your life better? What would make it worse? Think about what's "better" and what's "worse" as you read the story.

This is an old Yiddish folktale which shows that things could always be worse.

There once was a poor man who lived in one room with his wife, his six children--and his mother. The crowding caused the couple to argue, the children to fight, and the mother to scold. No one had any peace, especially in winter, when it was too cold to go outside, and the nights were long.

At last, one winter day, the man went to the village Rabbi. "Rabbi," he said, "I live in a small hut with my wife, my six children--and my mother. It's crowded, and all day long we argue and fight. There's so much noise! Please advise me, Rabbi, and I promise to do what you say."

Thinking for a few moments while stroking his long white beard, the Rabbi at last asked, "I suppose you have some fowl in your yard?"

"Why, yes, Rabbi," the man replied. "In fact, I have a few hens, and a rooster, and a goose!"

"Well, then, my son," said the Rabbi. "Go right home, and take your hens and your rooster and your goose and move them into the house with you and your wife and your children and your mother."

"A-a-a-a-ll right, Rabbi," the man said, though he doubted that this was a good idea. He went home and did as he was told, but soon he was back at the Rabbi's again.

"Rabbi!" he said. "Now, besides the arguing and the crying, there's the clucking and the crowing and the honking! Not to mention the added mess!"

After the Rabbi listened and thought and stroked, he asked, "Is there a goat penned up near your house?"

"Yes, Rabbi," the man answered. "I do have one goat. But he's old and smelly and useless."

"All right, then. Bring him into the house, too," said the Rabbi.

"Surely you're kidding, Rabbi!" the man pleaded. But no, the rabbi was not kidding, and the man went home and did as he was told. Now, with the crying, arguing, clucking, crowing, and honking was the "baaaa"-ing and the head butting! Again, the man went to the Rabbi.

"Have you a cow?" the Rabbi asked.

In dread, the man answered "Yes." And so the cow came to live inside, adding mooing to the rest and taking up all the remaining space.

"Rabbi," he said when he returned. "This is too much! We can hardly breathe! Is there no cure?"

"Well, my son," the Rabbi said. "I think it's time you took the animals back outside."

No sooner said than done. And for the first time in many days, the family slept soundly, and the hut seemed a paradise of family harmony.


Read more: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780374436360/itcouldalwaysbeworse

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. butting
  2. folktale
  3. fowl
  4. harmony
  5. paradise
  6. pleaded
  7. Rabbi
  8. rooster
  9. scold
  10. Yiddish

  1. begged
  2. find fault; reprimand
  3. a story passed on orally
  4. a Jewish teacher and minister
  5. barnyard birds
  6. a language and culture of European Jews
  7. peace; cooperation
  8. hitting hard, as with the head
  9. heaven; a peaceful place
  10. a male chicken

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for February 22, 2022

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. h; 2. c; 3. e; 4. g; 5. i; 6. a; 7. d; 8. j; 9. b; 10. f