A Jewish man, on his day of ordination, rejects his destiny to carry on the tradition of generations of rabbis, participates in Tsarist Russia's 'Black Sunday, is sentenced to death, escapes, emigrates from Eastern Europe, settles on a Minnesota farm, marries, and their five children try to cope with the trauma of diccovering their heritage in bits and pieces.
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Because their parents revolted against their ancestors' religion, the five Freedland children grow up deprived of their ancient and noble heritage.
Max, the middle child narrates several droll anecdotes the family experienced as they lived among their Christian neighbors.
As the years go by, Ma and Pa fail in their atempts to discard their Jewishness.
A spinster school teacher convinces Mr. and Mrs. Freedland to give up the farm and epxose their children to their heritage by moving to the city.
"I hereby repudiate your Torah. I deny your faith. I have a new Bible. It is called Das Kapital. The God you so revere is dead!"
Yaakov's face remained white. Then slowly the blood returned to his cheeks. He gripped the lapel of his frock coat. He strained with all his might. The garment ripped. He looked down at the lapel hanging by a strip of gabardine.
"I have lost a son," he whispered.
Itzhak stalked out of the house. The two purple phylactery bags and the two neatly folded white prayer shawls sat side by side on the wooden table.
Yaakov's lips moved reciting the Kaddish. His voice was barely audible as he chanted the ancient prayer for the dead.