It’s been a little more than a month since the passing of beloved children’s radio personality and masterful educator Rabbi Yosef “Yossi” Goldstein. And while no one who knew him will ever forget him, the Jewish Learning Group is making sure that everyone else can be affected by the storyteller as well, by releasing Uncle Yossi’s Big Book of Stories.
Transcribed from the tape series “Story Time With Uncle Yossi,” the 25 selected stories, parables and tales from Jewish lore each teach a life lesson.
“Uncle Yossi,” as the rabbi was affectionately called, released some 14 audiotape cassettes with more than 50 stories and songs depicting the ethics and morals of the Jewish people. He died March 7 at the age of 85.
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In the new published book, one story tells a parable about a king who selects three artists to create a piece of work to decorate an entire wall in his palace. One artist begins early on, the second artist arrived later, and the third never shows until the day of the artwork’s unveiling.
That day, the king comes with three stacks of gold—one larger than the next—to be given as appropriate compensation to the workers. The third artist—the one who arrives for the grand finale—refuses to uncover his work of art until the king approaches. “Your majesty, here is my masterpiece,” he tells the king, removing a white sheet. Underneath is a huge mirror, which reflects the other two artists’ pieces.
The king then places a sack on each on of the first two artists’ paintings, and tells the third that now the only items reflected in his mirror are two sacks. Goldstein’s conclusion? “Never expect to be rewarded for doing nothing. Put all of your efforts in your work, [and] you will be entitled to enjoy the good rewards that follow.”
“As the youngest of his 10 children,” says Zalman Goldstein, director of the Jewish Learning Group, “I feel very grateful for having merited the opportunity to observe my father practice his craft throughout my childhood years.”
He adds that the greatest honor his family could offer is “to be able to share our father’s wisdom with the world.”
And they’re sharing not only his wisdom, but the knack Goldstein had to tell a deeply conceptual story in a way that even a small child could understand. He had a unique ability to simplify the morals he treasured and wanted to relay.
In “The Return of Little Tzip Tzip,” for example, he tells of a mother trying to teach her little one to become independent. The young bird, however, constantly complains that something smells funny whenever his mother is near him.
“Come over here, please,” the mother says. “Let me take a look at you. I want you to know that on the tip of your nose was a piece of dirt that you didn’t even notice. You see, Tzip Tzip, there’s no bad smell in the north or in the south . . . It was this piece of dirt that you were smelling.”
Goldstein says a person must correct his or her own faults before pointing a finger at others. “For as you correct yourself,” he explains, “your fellow man will accept you as a living example. He will admire you and try to do the same. The fault that you see in your friend may truly be a fault of your own.”
To the youngest Goldstein, these stories and parables will serve to “perpetuate my father’s legacy of blending enjoyable entertainment with wholesome Jewish education for all.”