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Beloved ‘Town of Chelm’ Returns in World’s First Encyclopedia of Chelm Stories

After enjoying decades of acclaim in the pages of The Jewish Press, the lovable, side-splitting tales from the legendary town of Chelm have recently been collected in the world’s first encyclopedia of Chelm stories. In time for this year’s Chanukah gift-giving season, “The Silly World of Chelm” has been published by Zalman Goldstein of The Jewish Learning Group and is being distributed worldwide by Feldheim Publishers. The treasury of Jewish wit and whimsy brims with over 150 stories straight out of the fabled town of Chelm—the place where solving life’s practical problems was never a straightforward affair, but rather a rollicking journey into the inane.

The world’s first 408-page encyclopedia of Chelm stories re-acquaints readers with the unforgettable characters that everyone’s come to know and love, including The Wise Sage of Chelm and fumbling Shepsil. The simple-minded Mottel the Tailor and riotous Berel the Terrible. In all, original writer and creator Arnold Fine’s recipe for simple and clean Jewish humor still delivers, and with so many stories gathered together in one book, “The Silly World of Chelm” is guaranteed to provide hours of fun and enjoyment for the whole family. In the new 8- x10-inch large-format book, with a uniquely decorated padded cover, you’ll read about the Green-Eyed Monster and “The Adventures of Kunkle and Munkle.” You’ll enjoy the hilarious tale of “The Mayor’s Shoes” and learn about the formation of the “Worriers of Chelm,” plus dozens and dozens of more popular tales.

“The brilliantly conceived, eccentric scenarios have, for decades, left readers of all ages in stitches with helpless laughter, all the while leaving them scratching their heads in wonderment,” explains Zalman Goldstein, author also of the children’s suspense title “The Sultan’s Trap” and the popular “Uncle Yossi’s Big Book of Stories” series. “Being able to provide good, kosher humor for everyone is a privilege that is difficult to pass up. In this regard, ‘The Silly World of Chelm’ really delivers.”

For those new to the inane universe of Chelm stories, here’s a sample scenario: One day, the people of Chelm gathered to build a new shul for the growing village. “But,” one of the elders called out, “if we dig the foundation for the new shul, where will we put the earth that will be taken out of the ground?” They all turned to the sage and waited for his answer. “All we have to do is dig another hole to put the earth in!” the sage explained quite innocently. “But,” persisted the elder, “where will we put the earth we remove from the second hole that we will be digging?” The sage smiled warmly. “That, too, has a simple solution! We will dig a third hole, twice as big as the first, and place the earth from the second hole in that hole!” And on and on it went.

Another: In the little village of Chelm, Moshe the Tailor opened a new shop where he was to sell ready-made clothing. This was a new thing in Chelm because whenever anyone needed clothing, they would have to go to Moshe to be fitted and measured. It took weeks, and even months, for Moshe to finish a garment. So the opening of the ready-made clothing store was a sign of progress. After the first day, Moshe sat in his store and began to daydream: “I went to the big city and purchased the ready-made suits. Now, if I opened another store, I would do twice as much business as I did today! If I made twice the amount of money, I would then have enough to open two more stores! Now, if the good Lord favors me, I would then be able to open more and more stores. I would never have to sit by a sewing table again! I would simply go from store to store to collect the money.” He leaned back in his chair as he continued to daydream: “Since I would visit each store every day, and if each store did well, I would have even 100 kopecks at the end of a day! But if I had that many kopecks, I am certain thieves who visit Chelm from neighboring villages would know this, and then one night they would wait for me outside my home and rob all my hundred kopecks. ‘Gevald! I have been robbed,’ I would scream, ‘I have been robbed!’” He didn’t realize it at first, but he shouted so hard that his next-door neighbor heard the scream and quickly called Shloimi, the chief of police. Shloimi blew his whistle and all the townsfolk came running. “Moshe, our tailor of ready-made clothes, has been robbed!” everyone shouted. Then, the Old Sage of Chelm came rushing to the store. Moshe explained what had happened. “Indeed, Old Sage,” he cried, “I have been robbed. The thief took all the money I collected from my six stores of ready-made clothing!” The Old Sage patted Moshe on the head softly and said, “You have not been robbed because everything you told me had an ‘if’ in it. You said if you did well in the store you would get a second. And if you did well in the second you would get a third, and if you did well you would get a fourth, and a fifth. So in order for this not to come true, if this store burned down with all the clothing inside, you would have no problem!” Everyone agreed. Moshe took a match and set fire to his new store. As the last ember burned itself out, Moshe breathed a sigh of relief. “It is such a pleasure to have such a wise man among us. Oy, what aggravation I could have had!!”

Oh, the profundity!

“The Silly World of Chelm” will be available at all fine Jewish books stores on November 25 and can be pre-ordered at www.WorldOfChelm.com.

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