Buttering the Bread – from ‘The Wise Men of Chelm and their Merry Tales’ by Solomon Simon, Poland
Some time ago, in the town of Chelm, on the far east border of Poland, a young man lived, known by the name of Yossel. A bright young fellow he was, with a great appetite for anything scientific and a great love of… bread!
Every morning he would run to Avrim, the baker, to get a warm loaf of freshly baked bread. Then he would drop by at Salomon’s farm to collect some sweet creamy butter and finally he would swiftly dash home. He could taste the bread and butter already in his mouth...
Once home, Yossel sliced a thick piece of bread and buttered it fully on one side. And just as he was about to take a bite, his wife called out for him and he accidentally dropped the slice of bread.
There it slipped out of his hand, tossed and turned in the air, whilst it was falling to the floor. “Oh no!” Yossel called out. But looking down, Yossel was amazed! The slice of bread had landed on the floor buttered side up!
Now, it is well-known among Chelmers that when a slice of buttered bread falls to the floor, it always falls buttered side down! This was like a commandment equal to the Holy Rules, a law etched in stone, something bound to happen. But not now?!
Yosser looked at it for a long time. Why had it fallen buttered side up? Surely it must be some sort of Divine intervention, he thought.
Hence, the issue was referred to the council of the elders of Chelm. They discussed it, extensively, for seven days and seven nights (the traditional amount of discussion, without which no decision in Chelm could ever be rendered). Books were opened, Holy Rules were read, metaphors discussed and Divine intentions taken into account.
The whole community of Chelm was waiting with anticipation and the decision was finally delivered by the Mayor who called upon Yossel.
A thick crowd had gathered around the Town Hall and the Mayor started to speak: "My dear Yossel, the entire council of Chelm discussed the matter greatly. We agree that a slice of buttered bread indeed always falls buttered side down.
Therefore, in all our wisdom and knowledge, we have come to the conclusion that you, Yosser, have buttered your slice on the wrong side of the bread.".
Now, that's wisdom and knowledge for you!