The Wise Men of Helm and Their Merry Tales by Solomon Simon

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Our member Jan Rose writes:

The Wise Men of Helm & Their Merry Tales by Solomon Simon was first published in Yiddish (Di Helden fun Chelm) in 1942.  It was translated to English by Ben Bengal and David Simon and published in 1945.

I first read this book as a child and so enjoyed its humorous stories that I have reread it several times over the years.  It is a delightful collection of silly stories about the people of a mythical little town that  lies hidden in the forests of Poland.  Readers of all ages can enjoy this book.

The stories include such inane ideas as:  after suffering through a horribly cold winter with no firewood in the town, the Helmites built a brick wall around the town before the next winter.  It was to keep the cold out.  Once the townspeople invited a famous organist from Warsaw to come and play for the town.  It didn’t occur to them that there was no organ in all of Helm.  Then there was the time that the people of Helm, after years of taking their grain to the town of Shedlitz for milling, decided to build a mill in Helm, thereby avoiding the necessity of traveling to another town for this purpose.  They decided to build it up on the mountaintop so that all the world could see their beautiful mill.  The mill was completed but the waterwheel would not turn when the switch was pulled.  Nobody could understand why the mill wouldn’t work.  They never realized that they needed the water in the stream down in the valley to push the wheel around.  They capture the moon in a barrel, build a new synagogue, marry off their children, all the while making silly decisions for the town after many days of thinking, and thinking, and thinking.

The people of Helm learned that they had a reputation of being fools; however, they determined that they were not fools, foolish things kept happening to them.  Therefore they must be wise.

This wonderful book is a must read for all who enjoy humor and/or Jewish books.