web analytics
September 2, 2015 / 18 Elul, 5775
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post


Possibly the Greatest Jewish Novel Ever Written

Tevye

A minute had not transpired when the mule halted abruptly again. Its body shivered below Tevye as if it, like Bilaam’s ass, had seen the Angel of Death standing before it, grasping an upraised sword. The mule reared up its head and brayed. Tevye sat frozen. The smell of the swamp filled his nostrils. Frogs croaked. To his right, a shadowy creature leaped through the darkness and splashed noisily into the water. An alligator, Tevye thought, not sure if there were alligators in this part of the world. Or a bobcat. Or more probably, a wild, man-eating boar.

“Oy vay,” Tevye thought. Either he would fall off a cliff, drown in the swamp, or be eaten by some wild creature. He heard a voice in his head remind him of a famous quote from the Talmud: “It isn’t the bite of the snake which kills, but a man’s very own sin.” Tevye trembled. Why had he gone to the beach and gotten drunk like an ignorant peasant? Why had he treated the sanctity of the Festival so lightly? Surely, he was being punished for that. If he had stayed in his tent, studying Torah, he never would have gotten lost in the swamp. Why hadn’t he listened to Nachman?

In a situation like this, what could a Jew do but pray?

“Though I walk through a valley of death, I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me,” he recited, recalling the Psalm of Kind David by heart.

Insistently, Tevye gave the mule a kick. It stepped forward uncertainly, as if treading on treacherous ground. With a mind of its own, it refused to continue.

“Don’t be such a stubborn ass!” Tevye shouted, kicking its abdomen again. He flicked at the rein, urging it forward. The recalcitrant creature advanced a few short paces until it lurched forward. Its forelegs sank in the swamp. Tevye felt water splash into his shoes. With a growl, another invisible animal dived into the reeds up ahead.

“Eeeoooh!” Tevye yelled in alarm.

“Eeeaaah!” brayed the mule.

Fiercely, with all of his strength, Tevye jerked the reins to the left. The mule staggered forward and stopped.

“Yaaahh!” Tevye shouted, commanding the mule to respond.

“Yaaahh! Tevye screamed, booting the mule in its belly.

“Yaaahh!” Tevye bellowed, tugging the reins.

But the mule would not budge.

Angered, Tevye batted the mule on the head.

“Habyta, you jackass!” Tevye yelled out in Hebrew, urging the animal home. “Habyta!”

With a bellow, the frightened creature stumbled unsteadily forward. Once again its forelegs sank into the mud, this time up to its knees. The animal froze, its head slanting down toward the swamp, its rump in the air, as if it were a stallion trying to throw off a rider. Tevye grasped at the mule’s neck, bracing himself with all of his might so that he didn’t tumble forward into the water.

“CARMEL!” Tevye screamed. “ELISHA! NACHMAN! SOMEBODY SAVE ME!”

His shouts were answered by silence and the ominous buzz of mosquitoes.

“CARMEL!” he yelled, calling out for his wife. “ELISHA! NACHMAN! COME HELP!”

Certainly, someone was near. Certainly, his calls would be heard. The colony was only a short distance away, and certainly when Tevye was late in returning, a search party had already been sent out to find him.

But what if his shouts were heard by Arabs, not Jews? What if his yelling brought Bedouins? It wouldn’t be the first time that an Arab killed a Jew for his mule.

Tevye shut up. The buzzing of the mosquitoes grew louder. When one landed on his face, he gave it a slap, but the movement upset his already precarious balance. His legs squeezed the mule tightly as they both tilted dangerously towards the water.

“Oh Golda,” he whispered. “Don’t be angry with me. Get me out of this mess and I’ll leave my new wife.’

Again, a wild boar splashed into the swamp. Alarmed, Tevye tugged at the reins, pulling the mule backward. The animal made a great effort and staggered to unglue himself from the muck. But this time, his hind legs sank into the swamp. With a shudder, it stood rigid, unable or unwilling to budge.

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.

If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Possibly the Greatest Jewish Novel Ever Written”

Comments are closed.

Tzvi Fishman, author of the Jewish Press blog Felafel on Rye and author of more than a dozen books.
Current Top Story
President Obama in the fog.
US Says It Doesn’t Even Know How Many Americans Live in West Bank
Latest Blogs Stories
obamatargetiran

No one wants war; sometimes there’s no choice. Sometimes it’s the lesser of 2 evils. US must prepare

Palestinians attack an Israeli soldier during clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters, Aug28, 2015, in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh near Ramallah.

Despite many IDF soldiers jailed for defending themselves, families say,”Rather jailed than dead.”

Someone should alert this man: Dani Dayan, Chairman of the Judea, Samaria and Gaza Council.

Why won’t the gov’t finally annex YESHA & Jordan Valley formalizing their status in State of Israel?

Jewish Press Blogger, Selena Chait

Both “Half-Shabbat” & R’ Yosef’s opinion champion an extreme. There most certainly is a happy medium

Trump’s slogan and story gives American restores hope to dream to: “Make America Great Again”

Is GDP outdated an measure of prosperity? Are there any alternative methods of assessing $ growth?

In their attack on Ban Ki Moon, Hamas admitted to committing a different war crime.

The ideal of Modern Orthodoxy should be not be viewed as a compromise the way most Charedim view it.

Israel shouldn’t rely on US; It has an awful record in protecting allies.

The Halacha of shmirat einayim (guarding one’s eyes) is incumbent on the MAN; it’s his obligation

Dem. presidential candidate Doug Shreffler talks about his campaign & its motto “as good as it gets”

I’ve decided to move away from my safety net-and I wouldn’t change that decision for anything.

Was “Jerusalem” the song Matisyahu planned to perform? It was the PERFECT response to BDS campaign

If the world’s winds of hatred bring Jews to Israel we are ready, joyfully offering them a home here

At what age should the realization start setting in for kids that we live in an uncertain society?

More Articles from Tzvi Fishman
Jonathan Pollard.

Jonathan remember, as long as you’re denied your right to come home to Israel you’re still in prison

011-OT-Maps-Israel-Tribes

One must view the settlement of Israel in a positive light. Thinking otherwise is a grievous sin.

Detention Camps for US Jews? Sounds farfetched but it did to Japanese-Americans during WW II as well

Torah wasn’t given to be kept in Sinai; Brooklyn or Beverly Hills-It was meant to be kept in Israel!

Rebbe Nachman’s stories awaken the sleeping; our film of his stories has the power to wake the world

Going to Mt of Olives cemetery was like visiting Jurassic Park in a jeep with dinosaurs rampaging

To boost aliya, Israel will encourage Marshall’s, Costco, K Mart & Entenmann’s Bakeries to open here

Of course there’s air in America, but it isn’t the holy air of Eretz Yisrael.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/possibly-the-greatest-jewish-novel-ever-written/2012/06/14/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: