Chaim Yankel & the Merchant

December 20, 2012

2 min read


A wealthy Polish merchant was riding on a train with a simple Jew – Chaim Yankel from Chelm. The merchant leans over to him and asks if he would like to play a fun game. Chaim Yankel just wants to take a nap, so he politely declines and rolls over to the window to catch a few winks.

The merchant persists and explains that the game is really easy and a lot of fun. He explains, "I ask you a question, and if you don't know the answer, you pay me $5, and vice-versa." Again, Chaim Yankel politely declines and tries to get some sleep.

The merchant, now somewhat agitated, says, "Okay, if you don't know the answer you pay me $5, and if I don't know the answer, I will pay you $500," figuring that since Chaim Yankel is from Chelm that he will easily win the match. This catches Chaim Yankel's attention and, figuring that there will be no end to this torment unless he plays, he agrees to the game.

The merchant asks the first question. "What's the distance from the earth to the moon?" Chaim Yankel doesn't say a word, reaches into his purse, pulls out a five dollar bill and hands it to the merchant. Now, it's Chaim Yankel's turn.

He asks the merchant: "What goes up a hill with three legs, and comes down with four?" The merchant looks at her with a puzzled look. He thinks for a few minutes. Then he asks every single person on the train for help and no one knows

After over an hour, he wakes Chaim Yankel and hands him $500. Chaim Yankel politely takes the $500 and turns away to get back to sleep.

The merchant, who is more than a little miffed, wakes Chaim Yankel and asks, "Well, so what IS the answer!?" Without a word, Chaim Yankel reaches into his wallet, hands the merchant $5, and goes back to sleep!

Next Steps