Sowing Salt

Helm is a town in Poland, some forty miles east of Lublin. Helm enjoys special fame in Jewish folklore, as the archetypical home of simpletons, befuddled, foolish but endearing nonetheless.

1) Sowing salt; 2) HeadlessOnce there was a shortage of salt in Helm. What to do? The townspeople thought and thought without resting night or day. Then the rebbe, a mighty thinker, had a thought. "Let us go out to the fields and sow salt." The whole town went out to the fields carrying the last specks of salt they had left. They went to work sowing salt, and after they were done, the rebbe said that he would stay in the fields to guard the crop.

At night the rebbe lay down to sleep. As he slept, a wolf came by and bit his head off. In the morning the whole town turned out to see how the salt was doing. They found the headless rebbe in the field and wondered where his head could be. They sent messengers to the rebbe's wife with the question: "Do you recall — did the rebbe have a head or not?" She said she couldn't remember.

So they sent to the cantor of Helm, who said he couldn't remember either. People gathered in clusters discussing whether the rebbe had a head or not. Some cried, "he did," others, "No, he didn't."

They were about to come to blows when a man arrived from another town. "What are you arguing about?" he asked. They told him about the salt and the rebbe and the rebbe's head. When he had heard the whole story, he said, "If your rebbe was prepared to sow salt, its proof that he didn't have a head. You can bury him without further ado."



Barnes & Noble linkBeatrice Silverman Weinreich, editor; Leonard Wolf, translator. Yiddish Folktales. Copyright © 1988 YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (New York), p. 230.



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