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September 2, 2015 / 18 Elul, 5775
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Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Eight: The Holy Land

Tevye in the Promised Land

A call echoed over the beach. High on a towering sand dune, one of the young Zionists stood waving his cap and calling people to follow. The men stopped their dancing and made a charge for the mountain. Shoes sank into the soft, sandy slope as they scrambled hands and feet up the hill. Tevye joined them, crawling on his knees when the trek proved too steep. A young pioneer let out a scream and jumped off the summit. The meshugenneh toppled into the sand and rolled over and over down the long slope of the mountain. Like children, the other Jews followed. Tevye panted as he stood at the summit. To the north, he could see the long coastline. To the east lay endless stretches of swampland and desert. To the south, sand dunes filled the landscape as far as the eye could see.

“Are you coming?” Nachman asked.

The young rabbi jumped off the hill like a boy in summer camp. With a prayer in his heart, Tevye followed. Laughing, he rolled down the sand dune. He rolled and rolled, covered with sand, blanketed in the holy soil. When he stood up, his face was a mask. Sand filled his beard, his hair, his mouth and his eyes.

“Isn’t is written, `Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth,'” Nachman exclaimed, reciting God’s promise to Jacob.

Once again, the young Zionists set off in a race up the mountain. Nachman grabbed Tevye’s hand.

Gevalt,” Tevye said. “Not again.”

Reb Tevye, my father to be, I love you,” the ecstatic youth said.

Nachman theatrically raised up a hand and called out as if he were making a speech. “Go up the mountain, the Lord said to Abraham, and every place that you see, I will give to you and to your offspring forever.”

Nachman’s happiness and spirit gave Tevye the strength to brave the ascent once again. Struggling and gasping for breath, Tevye was the last climber to reach the summit. Down below, sand-covered Jews were jumping into the sparkling blue water. Tevye turned around in a small circle, feasting his eyes once again on his Land, the Land God had promised to give to the Jews, and here Tevye, the milkman from Anatevka was standing like Abraham on the top of the towering sand dune, surveying God’s priceless gift.

Down below, he watched Goliath playfully pick up Hevedke and hurl him into the water. Beyond them, out to sea, he glimpsed something floating on the top of a wave. In the glare of the sunlight, it looked like an oar from a rowboat, or the plank of a ship. But as it bobbed into view on the very next crest, Tevye could make out its sides. It was a crate of some sort, long and shallow in depth, like the shape of a . . . coffin.

Like the shape of a coffin!

Goose-pimples broke out all over Tevye’s flesh.

“Golda,” he whispered. “Golda!”

“GOLDA!” he screamed, hurling himself down the descent, running as fast as he could until he tripped in the sand and rolled the rest of the way down the mountain. Covered with sand, and white as a ghost, he staggered to his feet and ran along the beach yelling, “GOLDA!”

Tevye ran and he ran to catch up with his wife as the tide swept her coffin further south. His heart pounded so loudly, he felt it was sure to explode. Then, like a hand returning a precious jewel to its owner, a wave lifted the coffin and whisked it onto the beach. Like a lost treasure chest, it slid up to Tevye’s feet. Tevye collapsed to his knees. Seaweed stuck to the wood like a wreath. Tevye fell over the coffin and cried. He sobbed like a baby until the others arrived. His daughters huddled around him. Everyone stood in stunned silence.

Hevedke was the first one to speak. “It’s a miracle,” he said, expressing the word on everyone’s lips.

Tevye gazed up to Heaven as if to say thanks. It truly was the Holy Land. Bending down, he put his head on the coffin and spoke to his beloved wife.

“Forgive me, Golda, for all that I’ve put you through. But you can rest now, my princess, we’re home.”

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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