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