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May 29, 2015 / 11 Sivan, 5775
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Possibly the Greatest Jewish Novel Ever Written

Tevye

In our ongoing survey of some great Jewish books for Israel Book Week, we’re going to switch gears for the next couple blogs and take a look at some amazing Jewish fiction.

When I was an assimilated youth in America, very far away from Judaism, I saw the movie, Fiddler on the Roof, which struck a deep Jewish chord in my soul, just as it did millions. Years later, after the Almighty bestowed upon me the unsurpassable kindness of bringing me to Torah and to the Land of Israel, I fondly remembered Tevye, as if he were calling out to me from the pain and darkness of the exile, and I decided to bring the beloved milkman from Anatevka to the Holy Land, where he could share in the incredible blessing that I had discovered. So I wrote Tevye in the Promised Land,

a sweeping, 600 page, historical, family saga, set during the years just preceding World War One, at the time of the second aliyah of Jews from Russia. Through trial after trial, Tevye clings to his unquenchable faith and becomes a pioneer builder of the Land. The novel was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture, and is truly an inspiring and Torah-filled novel for the whole family. Many people have told me that their copies at home have become rumpled and coverless from having been read again and again by their kids.

Starting this coming Monday, don’t miss The Jewish Press serializing of the novel, Tevye in the Promised Land, a wonderful faith-filled adventure for the whole family, covering the Tevye’s unforgettable journey to the Promised Land.

To get you in the mood, here’s an excerpt from the book. Enjoy!

Chapter Thirty-Four

FEAR NO EVIL

When the festival of Pesach arrived, all work on the new settlement came to a halt in order to get ready for the Passover holiday. Tents had to be searched for chametz, and matzot had to be baked. As Tevye confided to Guttmacher, at least one thing about their new life in Olat HaShachar was easier than it had been in Russia.

“What’s that?” the undertaker asked.

“Searching for chametz.”

Guttmacher laughed. It was true. Their tents hardly had any furniture. Within minutes, all pieces of leaven and bread crumbs could be swept from the house. There were no sofas to move, no cabinets and dressers to clean, nor kitchens to scrub. But just the same, since the Master of the Universe had commanded them to remove all traces of leaven from the house during the seven day Passover holiday, they searched diligently just as Jews had been doing since the exodus from Egypt three-thousand years before. Tevye got down on his knees with a candle and feather to peer under the folds of the tent for crumbs. And sure enough, his love for the mitzvah was quickly rewarded. He didn’t find any traces of cake or bread, but he did find two curly-tailed scorpions whose sting was known to be deadly.

When it came to baking the matzot, the industrious scene could have passed for Anatevka. A special oven for baking the thin unleavened bread was made out of brick. Water from a nearby well had been stored overnight so that it would be cool at the time of the kneading, to be sure that the flour wouldn’t leaven. When the baking began, the men pounded the flour paste on top of tables and kneaded it without stopping until each batch of dough was ready. Once the flour and water were mixed, and the dough was flattened and slid into the oven, if more than eighteen minutes had passed, it had to be burned or fed to the animals before the holiday in fear that it had already leavened. Nachman was given the honor of separating the priest’s due, or challah, a mitzvah which was done only in Eretz Yisrael. Tevye, who was in charge of the kneading, made sure his workers kept shouting out, “L’sham matzah mitzvah-for the sake of the commandment of matzah.” By the middle of the frantic baking, everyone was sweating. The workers burst out in a spontaneous song.

“Just as God gathered us out from Egypt, he will gather us from the four corners of the earth!”

About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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Tzvi Fishman, author of the Jewish Press blog Felafel on Rye and author of more than a dozen books.
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