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It Could Be Worse

Adapted from a Jewish folktale from Poland

In this fun and participatory story a farmer lives in a house with his wife and children and the grandparents, and it is so noisy that he thinks he will go crazy. The rabbi advises the farmer to bring his animals into his home, too. First chickens, then goats, then sheep. The situation goes from bad to worse. Finally, the Rabbi suggests that the farmer take all of the animals out of the house. When he does so, the farmer’s family finds the home very peaceful.

Assign, or let children choose, the roles of the farmer and his wife, the rabbi, a child, two grandparents, a chicken, a goat, and a sheep. If the group has more children, cast multiple chickens, goats, and sheep. Invite the children taking animal roles to practice their animal parts now, so they will be ready to act them when their animal is mentioned in the story.

 

It Could Be Worse

A long time ago, there was a family that lived happily in a small, quiet house in Poland.  One day they learned that the grandparents were coming to live with them. The child was very excited about this, and so were the parents. But the parents worried because their house was very small. They knew that when the grandparents arrived, the house would become crowded and much noisier.

The farmer went to ask the rabbi what to do. The rabbi says, “Let them come.”

So the grandparents move in. They have a lot of furniture, which goes in the living room, where they sleep, and in some other rooms, too. It is crowded and noisy in the house so the farmer goes back to the rabbi: “I did what you said, Rabbi. Now my in-laws are here. And it is really crowded in the house.”

The rabbi thinks for moment. Then he asks, “Do you have chickens?”

“Of course I have chickens,” says the farmer.

“Bring them into the house,” says the rabbi.

The farmer is confused, but he knows the rabbi is very wise. So he goes home, and brings all the chickens to live inside the house with the family. But, it is no less crowded and noisy. In fact, it is worse, with the clucking, and pecking, and flapping of wings.

The farmer goes back to the rabbi. “I did what you said, Rabbi. Now with my in-laws and the chickens, too, it is really crowded in the house.”

The rabbi thinks for moment. Then he asks, “Do you have any goats?”

“Of course I have goats,” says the farmer.

“Bring them into the house,” says the rabbi.

The farmer is confused, but he knows the rabbi is very wise. He brings all the goats from the barn to live inside the house. It is no less crowded and noisy. In fact, it is much worse, with the chickens clucking and flapping their wings, and the goats baa-ing and butting their heads against the walls and one another.

The next day, the farmer goes back to the rabbi. “I did what you said, Rabbi. Now my in-laws have no place to sleep because the chickens have taken their bed. The goats are sticking their heads into everything and making a lot of noise.””

The rabbi thinks. He looks very puzzled. Then he says, “Aha! You must have some sheep.”

“Of course I have sheep,” says the farmer.

“Bring them into the house,” says the rabbi.

The farmer knows the rabbi is very wise. So he brings the sheep inside. It is no less crowded and noisy. In fact, it is much, much worse. The chickens are clucking and flapping their wings, the goats are baa-ing and butting their heads. The sheep are baa-ing, too, and one sat on the farmer’s eyeglasses and broke them. The house is loud and crazy and it is starting to smell like a barn.

Completely exasperated, the farmer goes back to the rabbi. “Rabbi,” he says, “I have followed your advice. I have done everything you said. Now my in-laws have no place to sleep because the chickens are laying eggs in their bed. The goats are baa-ing and butting their heads, and the sheep are breaking things. The house smells like a barn.”

The rabbi frowned. He closed his eyes and thought for a long time. Finally he said, “This is what you do. Take the sheep back to the barn. Take the goats back to the barn. Take the chickens back to their coop.”

The farmer ran home and did exactly as the rabbi had told him. As he took the animals out of the house, his child and wife and in-laws began to tidy up the rooms. By the time the last chicken was settled in her coop, the house looked quite nice. And, it was quiet. All the family agreed their home was the most spacious, peaceful, and comfortable home anywhere.

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Last updated on Friday, May 17, 2013.

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