The Small House
adapted from a favorite Jewish folktale
Jacob was a farmer and Sarah was his wife.
They worked hard together to live a happy life.
They had a couple chickens, a good old dairy cow,
and a cranky, stubborn mule they harnessed to the plow.
The only thing that stopped them being happy with it all,
was the feeling that their little house was much too much too small.
They visited the Rabbi, an elder man and wise,
And told him of their trouble and asked him to advise.
After thoughtful meditation, this is what he had to say:
“If you will do as I instruct, I think there is a way
to make your house a place of peace that happiness will bless.
But tell me am I right to think you have some chickens, yes?”
“We have some chickens, yes,” they said “what would you have us do?”
“Take the chickens from the yard into the house with you.”
“Bring the chickens from the yard into the house, you say?
We honor age and wisdom and will not disobey.”
So straight away they went and brought the chickens in to nest.
But instead of getting better, they were very sorely pressed.
The chickens squawked and scratched about, they laid eggs everywhere.
The noise and feathers were enough to make them tear their hair.
So once again they went to seek the Rabbi for advice.
He said, “I see a way to make your situation nice.
You have a cow for milking, yes?” “We have a cow for milking, true.”
“Go to the field and take your cow inside the house with you.”
“Go to the field and take our cow inside the house to stay?!”
They thanked the Rabbi for his advice and later on that day
The house had chickens laying and a cow chewing its cud.
The walls were nearly bursting, the floor was turned to mud.
The noises, smells, and other things were enough to drive them mad.
Once more they sought the Rabbi to seek advice he had.
“You say the chickens and the cow have made your home a mess?
But there is always room for more. You have a mule, yes?”
“We have a mule to pull the plow, we keep him in a stall.”
“Then take him in with all the rest, one roof will cover all.”
“Take the mule into the house with cow and chickens too?
We do not understand but we will do what we must do.”
Now the crowded little house had the mule ushered in.
Mooing, clucking, braying, made an awful din.
There was no room to sit, no place to build a fire,
The rafters shook, the air was foul, the floor became a mire.
The hapless couple groaned and cried “we cannot take this life!”
And once again they asked the Rabbi to save them from this strife.
The Rabbi lit a candle and poured them each some tea.
“You’ve endured a lot of suffering, this is plain to see.
“One last suggestion I will give, it should not be too hard,
“Return the cow out to the field, the chickens to the yard
“Return the mule to his stall, then clean and fix and sweep.
“Then see if you have room enough to get a good night’s sleep.”
Once more they did as they were told and to their great surprise,
The house that once was much too small, was now the perfect size.
How often even now, just as it was before,
when our want is keenly felt and we lament at being poor,
we think that having things will even up the score,
only to discover: having less beats having more.