The children's book 'A Squash and a Squeeze' by Julia Donaldson is about a woman who feels that her house is not big enough. She meets a 'wise old man' (who looks uncannily like an old chassidish fellow!), who tells her to bring animals into her home one by one (essentially to teach her a lesson in appreciation). After each animal enters her house the situation becomes more and more unbearably - all at the council of the wise old man. He eventually tells her to take animals out one by one and she begins to be grateful for the space she had in the first place.

A number of people have mentioned to me that this is based on a midrash or chassidic story (or other?). Is there indeed an early source for this in Jewish literature?


"Take in your hen," said the wise old man. "Take in my hen? What a curious plan."

  • There's a version of this story where someone complains Yad HaChazaka is hard to learn, so he is told to learn Mishna. That is also hard so he is told to try Gemara. That is also hard so he is told to go back to Yad HaChazaka.
    – Ze'ev
    Commented Jan 29, 2020 at 19:26

1 Answer 1


This is from an old Jewish Polish folk tale.

A man's house is too crowded, so the rabbi tells him to bring in all his animals, one species at a time. When there are no more to being in, he tells him to take them all out. All of a sudden, the house feels so much roomier, despite staying exactly the same.

Links: http://www.amazon.com/It-Could-Always-Be-Worse/dp/0374436363 http://www.uua.org/re/tapestry/children/home/session4/sessionplan/stories/60031.shtml https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=464644233600414&id=125862557478585

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    Aside from the book you site in 1990, the others mention that this is Yiddish folklore from Poland. Is there anywhere that pinpoints the original story?
    – bondonk
    Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 22:02
  • I couldn't find anything more specific, sorry. It's possible that it's in the actual book though.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 22:16

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