In 1824, in Danzig, on the shores of the Baltic Sea, an event took place which is still reverberating around the world. No, it had nothing to do with a minor event which had taken place a few years earlier further west, the French Revolution. The Bastille did not fall in Danzig, nor did Wellington overcome Napoleon on the fields of Northern Germany. However, this event went unnoticed for many months.
Only the readers of the Danzig Times may have picked up a faint echo of this cataclysmic event. A year after the event (there was then only one edition per year) it was reported in the paper, in very deceiving fashion, that a Jew had almost drowned in the sea; not quite an earthshattering event you may say.
But a sharp-eyed and eared young journalist on the New York Times picked up the trail. Tomas Slaveman, winner of the Plotsky Prize for Journalism in 1764, dropped everything, and grabbed the next boat out of New York. The fact that the boat was destined for Madagascar did not put him off the trail and within two years there he was on the promenade of Danzig picking up the scent.
Slaveman made an astonishing discovery. After three months of in-depth interviews with Danzig’s most notable citizens, he realized nobody actually understood English. So he was back to square one. Then came that moment which made Slaveman’s career; this moment came to be known as the Slaveman Epiphany — if the drowning man was a Jew, then very likely another Jew would know what happened.
When asked many years later where the inspiration for the epiphany came from, he whispered furtively: I’m also Jewish. Enough said.
In the Central Synagogue of Danzig, Slaveman found what he had been waiting for, a name – Reb Simchah Bunim from Przysucha, one of the greatest Hassidic Rabbis. Reb Bunim had been there at the time of the event. Unable to overcome his excitement at this discovery and after spending six months trying to pronounce Przysucha correctly, he made his way to meet the Rebbe.
Reb Simchah welcomed him in true Przysucha spirit, telling him a story about the treasure hidden within each individual. Slaveman, not beating about the bush, went straight for the jugular.
“Rabbi, what happened on that dark night in Danzig 4 years ago?”
Reb Simchah collapsed in his chair, perspiring profusely, muttering words in a strange language. Slaveman understood it to be Swahili, not long ago having spent time in Africa; but it turned out to be Yiddish. All Slaveman could hear was the word, meshigina, meshigina, meshigina, repeated endlessly. Slaveman knew he was on to something, it was clear to him that Reb Bunim had had an encounter with a meshigina, perhaps a celestial being, on the shores of the Baltic.
After Reb Simchah recovered he told Slaveman the story of what happened.
“Once, while out for a walk on the seafront, I saw a Jew in great distress. He was drowning in the sea. I shouted out to him: ‘give my regards to the whale.’ Shortly after, the Jew grabbed hold of a plank of wood in the water, and was saved.”
Reb Simchah explained to Slaveman that when someone is in great distress he cannot be helped. So he had to tell him a joke to strengthen his spirit. Then he continued to pray for him, and God had indeed sent the means for him to be saved, via the wooden plank.
Tomas knew then that all he had to do was find the whale.
Some say that Slaveman never really regained his sanity after that meeting with Reb Simchah. He was sighted many years later in the Artic Sea, white haired and beyond himself, looking for the whale.
However it was Slaveman’s perseverance and intrepid courage that convinced me to share with you the most incredible story you have ever heard. Humanity is being threatened by the greatest threat since Attila the Hun. The danger is so extreme that the US government, UN and WHO (World Health Organization) in consultation with the Quartet, Quintet and Sextet have secretly decided to hide the truth from the world for fear of total panic and anarchy sweeping civilization aside.
“Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” (W.B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”)
The story was leaked to me by a cleaning lady at the WHO, Beyonda Washington; not her real name. Georgina Mendes is an illegal immigrant from Patagonia, a country currently ravaged by a vicious civil war between rival sects, the Merinos and Corriedales, where all are being slaughtered like sheep. She showed me a top secret memorandum written by Secretary of State Ben “Get me Out of” Gazi titled “The Salami Supremacy.”
The Salamists, a fanatical group of salami eaters were planning to take over the world, no less. Relying on the ignorance of western salami eaters, and under the guise of WHO regulatory procedures for the manufacture and marketing of salami, salamis were being distributed around the world disguised as salamis. Moderate ones of course.
At a press conference in the White House, held in honor of Salami Day, President Hubert ‘Je Suis Salami’ Uganda, quashed or was it squashed, all rumors of any such a threat. He claimed that it was a ‘trumped’ up charge.
“99.9% per cent of all salamis were edible” he said. Uganda stated that “eating Salami promoted peace all over the globe, adding that there can be no place in America for salamiphobes” as he downed his third Pepperoni Salami sandwich and washed it down with a cold beer.
The night after covering the ceremony at the White House I woke up with a terrifying dream: I had been drowning in the sea, and somebody, on seeing me going under had shouted out, send my regards to the whale. It was Reb Simcha.
Who knows I thought, maybe, the discovery of the threat of a salami takeover had only happened in order that we should all be reminded that the power of humor can save the world.