Date: Wed, 21 Jan 1998 21:59:41 -0500


Subject: Re: folk tale, "1, 2, 3"

At 06:32 PM 1/21/98 EST, you wrote:

Not on topic, (apologies all) but I thought that some of you here might

know this---

there's a folk tale, situated variously in areas where pogroms occurred.

In the tale, the provincial governor, or ruler, or even village chief,

tells the local jewish population that one of them will have to debate

him, or vie with him, and if the jewish representative loses,s/he'll be

killed and everyone else driven out. No one wants to be the debater,

and finally an illiterate, lowly sweeper or laborer or cowherd (e

is selected. The cowherd and the village chief meet in the village

square, and sit face to face, silently for a long time. At last, the

cowherd hold up one finger. The village chief looks startled, then holds

up two fingers. After a while, the cowherd holds up three fingers. The

village chief announces that the cowherd has won and everyone can stay.

Later, each gives a different interpretation of what the other meant.

Larry Horn, where you der, charley?

Anyone? Anyone know this?


beth simon

assistant professor, linguistics and english

indiana university purdue university


The version I heard involved the Pope and the chief rabbi or Rome. The

Pope has been told that he has to get the jews out of Rome, but he insists

on a test first. The Pope holds up one finger, and the rabbi responds with

two. The Pope then takes a bite from an apple, and the rabbi takes a bite

from a bagel.

The Pope's interpretation is this: One finger = "There is one God." Two

fingers = "And two more just like him." The apple = original sin. The

bagel = man's continuing sin.

The rabbi's interpretation is this: One finger = "I'll poke your eyes

out." Two fingers = "I'll poke both your eyes out." The apple and bagel =

"I should starve while he eats?"

Bill Smith

Piedmont College