Good Morning, Chelm

Sometimes, when I can’t find a home for one of my stories, I take the opportunity to share it with friends on my blog.

Good Morning, Chelm is based on the stories from Eastern European Jewish folklore.   “The city of Chelm functions as an imaginary city of fools (that has) spawned hundreds of tales describing outlandish naiveté and stupidity that have been printed in dozens of editions in a variety of languages. Chelm was a real town in Poland whose residents bore no connection to the stories….The first publication of Chelm-like stories appeared in Yiddish in 1597.” (from the YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern European)

It is said, “in Chelm, the wisest thing you ever heard was spoken by the last person who spoke. And also in Chelm, the most foolish thing you ever heard was spoken by the last person who spoke. Therefore, the next Chelmer to speak will always have something wiser and more foolish to say.” (from the Wise Folk of Chelm, by Seymour Rossel)

I hope you like my interpretation of this silly story.



An original retelling by Sylvia Rouss

I feel lucky to live in the village of Chelm. It is a town that is in the middle of nowhere which is a wonderful place to live. The people in my town are the smartest people in the world. There is never a problem too big or too small that we can’t solve if we put our heads together.

Why just last week I was talking to my old friend Fishka. He has the very important job of knocking on everyone’s door each morning to wake them in time for synagogue services. I was sound asleep when I heard him knocking.

“Who’s there?” I asked.

“It’s me, Shmoolik,” he said.

“No, I’m Shmoolik,” I replied as I opened the door. “I know because there is no one else in Chelm with my name.”

Fishka nodded, “I just meant to say it’s me at your door, Shmoolik.”

“Of course it’s you at my door, Fishka. Who else would it be? You come every morning to wake me.”

“Then why did you ask who it was when I knocked?” asked Fishka.

“Because a smart person, like me, never opens the door to a stranger,” I told him.  You look tired, Fishka? Would you like to come in and sit for awhile?” I asked offering him a chair.

“Sitting sounds good,” he said. “I’m getting old and it is hard for me to walk around and knock on all the doors each morning.”

I thought and rubbed my chin because that’s what smart people do when they think of an idea. I asked him, “Have you tried hopping instead.”

Fishka jumped up from the chair and gave me a hug. “Shmoolik, what a great idea, I shall try hopping tomorrow morning.”

The next day when Fishka came to my door, he said, “Shmoolik, I tried hopping but it is still too hard for me.”

I thought and scratched my head because that’s what smart people do when they solve a problem. Then I asked, “Did you hop on one leg or two?”

Fishka answered, “I used both legs and hopped like a rabbit.”

I slapped my forehead. “That’s the problem,” I said. “Fishka you are not a rabbit. You are a man so you must hop on one leg.”

Fishka’s eyes lit up, “That’s an excellent idea.” he said. “Tomorrow, I will try hopping on one leg.”

But the following morning Fishka once again came to me and sadly said. “Hopping on one leg was even harder than hopping on two.”

I closed my eyes and pinched the top of my nose because that’s what smart people do when they think harder than ever.

Suddenly, it came to me. “Fishka,” I said, “You can’t walk or hop because the problem is your feet. So tomorrow try walking on your hands.”

Fishka clapped his hands together. “Why didn’t I think of that!” he exclaimed. “That is exactly what I will do.”

I was surprised when Fishka came back to see me and told me that my brilliant idea didn’t work. “I tried walking on my hands but I kept falling,” he said shaking his head.

I realized that this problem was too big for me to solve alone so I asked everyone in Chelm to come to a meeting. “Let’s put our heads together and come up with a plan to help Fishka,” I suggested. We made a circle, and lay down on the ground with our feet facing out and our heads touching. I don’t want to brag but, after putting our heads together, we came up with the best idea of all.

That very same day I passed out buckets of paint to every family in Chelm. Everyone painted their names on their front doors. When the paint dried, they removed the doors and loaded them on my cart. I brought all the doors to Fishka’s house and lined them up in his yard. When I finished, I asked him to come outdoors.

Look, Fishka, I proudly said, “We have made your job easier. You will no longer have to go to every door in the village because I have brought every door to you. Now you can knock on them each morning to wake everyone in time for synagogue services!”