The only thing that Rabbi Lipstein liked talking about as much as talmud, was life in the old country. His digressions to stories about the old country would occur at random. For example, if a passage in the talmud was discussing the process of milking a cow, he would share his knowledge on the topic by recalling how he used to milk cows in his early rural life. Although most of the students seemed to pay no more attention to him during these stories, I would show particular interest. If I had dozed off somewhat during the lecture, I would immediately become alert and listen with great attention. I loved all his stories, even the seemingly mundane ones, like how he used to go chop wood in the forest and how he would feed the young…show more content…
Why did these stories so appeal to me, as a third generation American, who spoke no Yiddish and who lacked any strong connection to the old country?
Because I yearned for that foregone Jewish experience. There was something so appealing to me about being a Jew in yesterday’s Europe. I compared Rabbi Lipstein’s stories about his early life to my own experiences. I found being Jewish life in this country to be dry and uninspiring. In America, a Jew is no different than an Episcopalian or Catholic. I am just an American whose religious affiliation happens to be Judaism, but besides that I am just like everyone else. While in Europe, Jews had a distinct identity, their own language and vibrant culture. Though I am incredibly grateful to the United States for all of the rights and liberties that I am provided, and though it seems ridiculous to complain about being accepted by the populace, there is something about this great country that zaps the vitality of foreign cultures and assimilates its many distinct peoples into a flavorless whole.
For the abundance of stories Rabbi Lipstein told, there was one topic that he never discussed, the War. His stories all occurred before the year 1939. He never even told us the circumstances of how he got to this country, that was all left to speculation.
Rabbi Lipstein clears his throat and then asks the class another question pertaining to the required length of the lulav. As usual, no one raises their hands besides the first