One of the best-known tales of marital troubles has appeared in biographical stories of many rabbis, including Dovid’l Talner (1808-1882).
According to this story, a poor villager with a big problem came to see the famous rabbi. “You see, Rabbi, I have a lovely wife and ten wonderful children. But we all live together in only one small room, so that there is not room enough to turn about. Life is miserable for all of us. We have come to you to pray for us, Rabbi.”
The rabbi pondered this unusually difficult circumstance and finally came up with an idea. He asked the villager, “Do you, by any chance, own a goat?”
“Yes, of course we do; Rabbi”
The rabbi nodded. “I suggest that you bring the goat into the house to live with your family.” The surprised villager shrugged, but, after all, the advice had come from the learned rabbi, so the goat was brought into the house.
A few days later, however, the villager was back. “Rabbi, the goat wanders all over the house. We cannot put our heads down anywhere without worrying whether the goat will disturb us.”
Rabbi Talner did not offer any sympathy. Instead, he said, ‘Tell me, do you own any chickens?”
The villager said, “Certainly we own chickens”
The rabbi said, “You must take these chickens into the house immediately”
The confused villager was unsure of what to do. Knowing the rabbi to be famous for his learning, the villager decided that he could not go against the rabbi’s advice, and so the chickens were brought into the house.
The villager was back the very next day. “Rabbi, I have brought the chickens into the house as you told me to do. It is impossible now to live in that house.”
The rabbi nodded and said, “You must now remove the goat and the chickens.”
The much-relieved villager was now glad to do as he was told. Several days later the man came back to see Rabbi Talner. “Rabbi, you are indeed wise. Now that the goat and the chickens are out of our house, we all feel more relaxed and comfortable. Finally, we are a family at peace.”
S. M. Neches, Humorous Tales of Latter-Day Rabbis (New York: George Obsevage, 1938), 42-43.