Skip to content

Higher Mathmatics

A Chelm Story from Jewish Folklore
Retold by S.E. Schlosser

Shmul and Benin, two of the wisest men in the town of Chelm, went one day to take a steam bath.  As they relaxed in the luxury of steamy heat, they idly began discussing Benin’s upcoming trip to Dvimsk, debating how long it would take for him to drive to the distant town in his buggy.  
      "It is a simple matter of higher mathmatics," said Shmul.  "The last time I drove to Dvinsk, it took me four hours to reach town driving only one horse.  If it took me four hours to drive to Dvinsk with one horse, how many hours would it take you to get to Dvinsk driving with two horses?" 
      Benin pondered this intricate mathmatical puzzle as steam wafted about him.  He stretched and held up his face to the warm heat for a moment, and then said:  "It would take two hours, of course, cutting my time in half."
      "Correct!" cried Shmul admiringly.  "You are truly a sage of wisdom, my friend." 
      "I am indeed," Benin said modestly.  "Now you tell me the answer to my question.  If I had four horses, how long would it take me to get to Dvinsk?" 
      Shmul frowned ferociously in thought.  Then he said:  "Why, it would take no time at all!" 
      "That’s right," said Benin, mathmatical genius of Chelm. 
      "Well, if it takes no time at all, why bother going to Dvinsk?" said Shmul.  "It would be better to harness your four horses and stay right here!" 
       "That’s what I plan to do," said Benin smugly. 
      And that’s just what he did. 

S.E. Schlosser

S.E. Schlosser

S.E. Schlosser is the author of the Spooky Series published by Globe Pequot Press. She has been telling stories since she was a child, when games of “let’s pretend” quickly built themselves into full-length tales acted out with friends. A graduate of both Houghton College and the Institute of Children’s Literature, Sandy received her MLS from Rutgers University while working as a full-time music teacher and a freelance author.