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Telegraphing the Telegram

While sunning himself in the Bahamas, a wealthy Manhattan businessman named Saul Epstein received a telegram from his butler, which read simply: "Cat dead." Distraught at the loss of his beloved pet, Mr. Epstein cut short his holiday and returned home. After giving the cat a decent burial in the garden, he remonstrated with his butler for the cold-hearted nature of the telegram.

"You should break bad news gently," he said. "If I had been telling you that your cat had died, I would have sent a telegram saying: "The cat's on the roof and can't get down." Then a few hours later I would have sent another telegram, saying: "The cat's fallen off the roof and is badly hurt." Finally, a couple of hours after that, I would have sent a third telegram, saying: "The cat has sadly passed away." That way, you would have been gradually prepared for the bad news and would have been able to deal with it better."

"I understand, sir," said the butler. "I will bear that in mind in future."

With that, Mr. Epstein booked another ticket to the Bahamas and resumed his holiday.

Two days later, he received another telegram from his butler. It read: "Your mother's on the roof and can't get down."

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