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September 2, 2015 / 18 Elul, 5775
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Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Twenty-Three: A New Kind of Jew


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“We need some more refreshments for our guest,” the master of the chicken coop said.

The girl reached down for the empty plate of fruit and the bottle, but when she turned to leave, her father continued to hold her.

“This is my oldest daughter, Carmel,” he said, introducing the young woman to Tevye. “Carmel, this is our new neighbor, Tevye.”

Tevye didn’t know whether the dizziness he felt in his head came from the liquor, or from the glow in her eyes when she glanced at him with her dark, exotic expression.

“Truthfully,” Elisha said, “in deciding to join the Morasha group, my main concern was my daughters. We Yemenites have kept our community pure for thousands of years, and all of you are from Russia. Who are my daughters going to marry?”

Tevye glanced away from the young woman in order to gain his composure.

“With God’s help,” Elisha said, “the colony will grow, and more Yemenites will follow. That’s what we are hoping. Isn’t that right, my sweet daughter?”

With a blush, the young women slipped away from her father. Her long skirt rustled and she hurried back behind the curtain.

“You too have daughters?” Elisha said.

“Yes,” Tevye answered.

Could it be he was drunk on only half a bottle of liquor? True, he wasn’t used to the licorice-tasting Arak, but it surely was no stronger than good Russian vodka. Behind the curtain, he heard an exchange of whispers that he couldn’t make out. When the curtain was drawn back again, instead of the girl, Elisha’s wife reappeared, carrying a plate of cakes and another bottle of Arak.

The Yemenite smiled as he uncorked the new bottle.

“In the manner of you Russian Jews, let’s make a toast. May God help us find good husbands for our daughters.”

“Could it be?” Tevye wondered as Elisha filled up his glass. “No, no, it couldn’t. It was absurd. It was ridiculous. Dark eyes or not, the girl was the age of his daughter!”

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.


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