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Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter 13: Tzeitl’s Last Wish

Tevye in the Promised Land

In retrospect, looking back at her marriage, she understood it was the exciting novelty of Perchik’s personality which had swept her heart away, and not his revolutionary speeches. Because she loved him, she followed after him like a dutiful wife. What he thought, she thought. What he believed, she believed. The Torah that she had inherited from her father and mother, she had hidden away in her heart.

Just as the candle-lighting ceremony was finished, Shmuelik appeared and told Tevye that everything was ready in the kitchen. There was no synagogue on the non-religious kibbutz, so the newcomers prayed in the spacious dining hall before the kibbutzniks arrived for the meal. As Herzl gazed down upon them from a picture framed on the wall, Tevye and his friends chanted out the time-honored tunes which accompanied the arrival of the seventh day of the week. Tevye was particularly joyous this Sabbath Eve in the Holy Land. With a proud, soaring spirit, he sang the “Adon Olam” at the end of their prayers. Soon, every bench in the dining hall was filled with hungry settlers. Everyone in the kibbutz ate together, in accord with their goal of building a classless society, free from the evils of private ownership and capitalist gain. Surprisingly, the kibbutzniks came formally dressed for the meal, the men in high-collared shirts and ties, the women in floor-length dresses with ribbons tied in bows at the neck. In his deepest baritone, Tevye held up his cherished goblet and chanted the traditional Kiddush. Out of respect, many of the men covered their heads with their caps or their hands as Tevye sang out the blessing. One striking figure with a great white beard and balding countenance turned his chair to the side as if in disdain for the ceremony. Tevye remembered the words of Rabbi Kook that with time these Zionists would return in joy to the Torah after their secular enterprises and idealistic experiments failed to provide food for their souls.

After finishing a bottle of Rothschild wine, Tevye felt so spirited, he imagined seeing a group of Sabbath angels enter the dining hall to join them for the repast. In keeping with the local custom, the minstrel, Naftali, stood up and led the kibbutzniks in a romantic Zionist song, which exalted the work on the Land.

“Here I built a house

In Eretz Yisrael.

Here I planted trees

In Eretz Yisrael.

Here I built a road

In Eretz Yisrael.

Here I sang a song

In Eretz Yisrael.”

Then, with eyes shining brightly with love, the women sang in a chorus. Their mellifluous voices, together with the Torah prohibition of hearing a woman sing, caused Shmuelik to blush and turn to sit facing the wall.

Eretz Yisrael, my land

 Eretz Yisrael, my love

 Eretz Yisrael, my dream

 Eretz Yisrael, my world

Forever.”

Before the women could continue their singing, Hillel stood up and sang a haunting solo which received an appreciative applause, and not a knife or fork moved in the hall when little Moishe stood up to accompany him in a stirring Sabbath duet. When the kibbutzniks called for an encore, Hillel began singing a spirited Hasidic melody. He grabbed Tevye by the hand and dragged him up from his bench. Soon they were dancing with Goliath in the middle of the hall. Not to be upstaged, Ben Zion grabbed the hand of the pretty young girl whom Shmuelik had met in the kitchen. With his usual flair, he started to swing her around. Swirling the girl past Bat Sheva’s table, Ben Zion winked, and the milkman’s high-strung daughter nearly fell off of her bench in a faint once again. Then with Perchik’s encouragement, the kibbutzniks got up from their tables to dance a spirited hora. This was too much for Shmuelik. The sight of the young men and women holding hands and dancing soured the food in his stomach. He stood up and hurried out of the hall, as if someone had set it on fire. Tevye too was distraught. If a man and wife wanted to dance in the privacy of their own home that was one thing, but mixed dancing in public was strictly forbidden!

Oy, the Jew who does not listen to his Rabbi,” he thought, remembering the scene at the Anatevka crossroads and the Rabbi’s stern warning against linking up with those who had defiantly thrown off the yoke of the Torah. In the Holy Land, this brazen behavior could only be a portent of evil, leading to even worse breaches. When the hora continued, he gathered his family and led them outside. Besides the dancing, Bat Sheva’s dizzy spells had Tevye worried. He kept thinking about the plague in Tiberias, God forbid. But when the girl recovered immediately in the fresh air outside of the dining room, and a reddish glow returned to her cheeks, Tevye guessed the real cause of her distress. He did not have a degree in psychology, but he was a father to seven daughters, and he recognized the pangs of young love.

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." For the past several years, he has written a popular and controversial blog at Arutz 7. A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press


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