“And I want to be Baron Rothschild with a carriage pulled by four fancy zebras,” the milkman responded.
“Give me a chance,” Hevedke pleaded.
“Just like the chance which your Czar has given to us. The chance to flee and never return. My daughter is finished with you and never wants to see you again. Tomorrow, when I look back down the road, I don’t want to see you following us. Is that understood?”
“Yes,” Hevedke whispered as the blade pressed into his skin.
Tevye let the youth go. The Russian fell to his side and gasped. The milkman stood up in satisfaction and started to walk back toward the road. But now it was Hevedke’s turn. His voice pierced Tevye’s back as if he were holding a knife of his own.
“Wherever thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God.”
“Oy vay,” Tevye thought. Another Bible scholar! It was maddening enough that the Zionist, Ben Zion, could spout verses like water. Now this blond-headed Gorky was quoting the Book of Ruth. Soon Tevye’s horse would be talking!
“I love Hava,” Hevedke said. “And I always will. Where she diest, I will die, and there I will be buried.”
“Gevalt,” Tevye thought. “Do I have a problem.”
Without turning, he walked back to the road. Stars sparkled high over the trees. What future did the constellations hold in store for him? After all, he reasoned, trying to see the good side, a gentile could convert. It said so in the Torah. Wasn’t Ruth, the Moabite, the great grandmother of King David? And if you want to talk about converts, Rabbi Akiva, the son of a convert, became the greatest Torah scholar in history. On the other hand, being in love with a pretty Jewish girl did not make someone a Jew. There were rules when it came to converting, like with everything else. If Hevedke Galagan really wanted to enter the Covenant of Abraham, he would have to pass the test. And the first proof of a Jew was suffering. He would have to prove himself beyond any shadow of a doubt before Tevye would let him speak to his daughter.