Helm is a town in Poland, some forty miles east of Lublin. Chelm enjoys a special fame in Jewish folklore: it has become the archetypal home of simpletons, befuddled, foolish but endearing nonetheless.

The people of Helm were enamored of their moon. Nightly they would stand outside, hands behind their backs, gazing at the heavens. As the moon waxed and waned, slipping from a silvery sliver to a brilliant full moon, and then disappearing once again, the townsfolk of Helm would stand and observe in awe and reverence.

One night, one of the gazers expressed a growing sense of frustration. "The moon is so lovely," he blurted suddenly. "Why does it have to disappear on us month after month?"

"Indeed," added his friend, "I was feeling the same thing. If only it could remain with us nightly, round and shiny."

"Perhaps we can capture the moon," suggested a third, " and then it will be ours — fully radiant, each and every night."

As fellow gazers gathered round, muttering their agreement, it was decided to to pay a visit to the Wise Men of Helm, that the latter might propose a practical plan for capturing the moon.

The Wise Men were supportive and sympathetic. They, too, were beginning to feel their beloved moon was a bit of a tease. They put their heads together and came up with the following suggestion:

"On the eve of the 15th of every Hebrew month the moon can be seen inside the town well (when the skies are clear, that is). Clearly, the well is the moon's favorite resting place when it feels in its prime. When the moon is seen resting in the well, gather round, clamp on the cover, and capture the moon!"

The townsfolk of Helm were pleased and eager. They did as the Wise Men bid, and on one clear and brisk evening in mid Elul, they clamped the cover on the town well. The moon was now captured, ever-full, ever-radiant. The moon was theirs.




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