The Sages of Chelm

How clever they are!

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The Ox Ate My Sermon

The maggid [preacher] of Chelm was returning home from a neighboring village where he had just preached a sermon. On the way he was overtaken by a farmer whose wagon was piled high with hay.

"May I offer you a ride?" asked the peasant courteously.

"Thank you," replied the maggid, climbing aboard the wagon. It was a warm, sunny day and soon the preacher fell fast asleep. But when he arrived in Chelm he could not find his notebook, in which he kept his themes and parables.

"I must have lost it in the hay!" cried the maggid, greatly distressed. "Now some cow or goat or ass will eat it and become familiar with all my best sermons!"

The next evening, at the synagogue, he strode to the bimah [pulpit] and glared at the congregation.

"Fellow citizens of Chelm," he proclaimed, "I have lost my notebook in a load of fodder. I want you to know that if some dumb ox or ass ever comes to this town to preach, the sermon will be mine, not his!"

Legally Friendly

The rabbi was deeply worried. For weeks no one had come to him to judge a case and, being a poor man, he was desperately in need of the fees usually paid for his services.

One day, as he was standing at his window, wondering when he would get his next case, he saw Itzig the butcher and Shloime the baker in what appeared to be a sharp dispute. As they passed by they were waving their arms in emphatic gestures, and talking loudly and excitedly.

"Aha! A couple of litigants!" He threw open the window and called to them, "Let me adjudicate your dispute."

"Dispute? Who's having a dispute?" answered Itzig.

"We were just having a friendly discussion," agreed Shloime.

"Fine!" replied the quick-thinking rabbi. "Just step right into the house and, for a very small charge, I'll make out a certificate that you have nothing against each other!"

Credit Where Credit Is Due

The melamed [schoolteacher] and the rabbi of Chelm were in a coffee house where they were discussing the economy of the town and how to improve it.

"There is one thing that depresses me," sighed the melamed, "and that is the injustice accorded to the poor. The rich, who have more money than they need, can buy on credit. But the poor, who haven't two coins to knock together, have to pay cash for everything. Do you call that fair?"

"I don't see how it could be any other way," answered the rabbi.

"But it's only common sense that it should be the other way around," insisted the melamed. "The rich, who have money, should pay cash and the poor should be able to buy on credit."

"I admire your idealistic nature," said the rabbi, "but a merchant who extends credit to the poor instead of the rich will soon become a poor man himself."

"So what?" retorted the melamed. "Then he'd be able to buy on credit, too!"

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