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Tailor Itzik’s goat

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About two hundred years ago, in the Russian town of Nemirov, lived a certain Itzik, a tailor, known throughout the city, less for his sewing than for his noisy, impudent children’s scissors—eleven children in all, all of whom made the neighborhood unsafe. How he could live peacefully with all those children, besides his wife, mother-in-law and an old aunt in a dilapidated two-room hut, was a secret that no one could unlock.

None, except the rabbi, but he was as closed as a grave in private matters. And if someone asked him: ‘Tell me, Itzik, why are you so very cheerful?’ then the tailor smiled mischievously, looked up to the sky as if to indicate that all happiness came from above — and went on working undisturbed. But that wasn’t always the case.

When Jacob, his eleventh child, was born, marital happiness threatened to end. Early in the morning began the arguing and whining of the children and the bleating of the goat tied up in the yard in front of the house. It was like jumping out of your skin. And so Itzik the tailor went to the rabbi for advice: ‘We have two rooms, rabbi, and together we are fourteen souls in all. What am I supposed to do?’

“Are you all well?” the rabbi wanted to know.

“Yes, thank God!” Itzik replied.

“Can you get by?”

“We have enough for bread and soup,” admitted the tailor.

“Then what are you missing?” the rabbi asked in surprise.

‘It has become too small for us,’ sighed Itzik, ‘so small that I envy our goat because it has the whole garden to itself’.

“So,” said the rabbi, “do you also have a goat?”

‘Otherwise we wouldn’t have milk for the little ones,’ the tailor apologized, ‘but sheer lack of space causes friction and then quarrels, so that I can no longer work. What am I supposed to do then?’

For a while the rabbi scratched his gray beard before replying, “Bring the goat home!”

The tailor didn’t trust his own ears: ‘What should I do with the goat?’ he asked, stunned.

“Take her home!”

‘But that won’t work! There are fourteen of us and we can hardly breathe because of lack of space – and then that gei-gei-goat would…’, he stammered with excitement. But the rabbi stuck to his advice: “Bring the goat home!”

And so the unthinkable happened. In a corner of one of the rooms an enclosed space was made and a chain was attached to the wall – after which the goat entered the tailor’s house as a subtenant.

Itzik endured all hell on earth for a week. For a week he endured the wails and cries of his large family, now crowned by the bleating of the goat.

Then he lost his temper. Immediately after morning prayers, he went to the rabbi and poured out his heart, “It can’t go on like this! I can’t sleep anymore, work won’t work and we’re all going crazy’;

‘Good,’ said the rabbi, now bring the goat outside!’

“Out in the garden?”

“Where she used to be,” the rabbi confirmed.

Hoping with joy, the tailor hastened home.

In the afternoon the goat was back in its usual place and everything seemed back to normal. But no. Quite unexpectedly it was much quieter now; the noise decreased; suddenly the hut seemed to be twice as big, everyone took each other into account and every now and then it was even as quiet as a mouse…”

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