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Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Nine: Mazal Tov!

Tevye in the Promised Land

Even Hevedke felt an exaltation he had never known in his life. Until then, his desire to become a part of Hava’s people had stemmed from his love for her. But now, seeing God’s promise to the Jews materializing before his eyes, to bring His people home, he was moved by an overwhelming love for the God of the Children of Israel. Dramatically, he stood up on a chair, and, like the poet he was, he read aloud from his wet, sandy Bible. Hearing the baritone, Russian translation, the Yiddish-speaking Jews stopped dancing and stared up in wonder at the blond, blue-eyed orator.

I will take you from the nations,” Hevedke read with a flourish, “and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own Land, and you shall dwell in the Land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be My people, and I will be your God.”

Everyone cheered. Goliath lifted Hevedke on his shoulders and swung him around in the middle of the dancing. Tevye danced and drank “L’Chaims” until his eyes wearied with sleep. But as his head fell onto his plate in exhaustion, he suddenly bolted up from the table. How could he think of resting when his Golda was outside in her coffin? How could he think of his own peace and comfort when Golda had not found her final rest? Wasn’t burying the dead the most pressing mitzvah of all? Without further delay, he rushed out of the hall. Now that they were in the Land of Israel, it didn’t matter where she was buried. As the Sages taught, burial in the Holy Land atoned for sins, just like the altar in the Holy Temple.

“Not that my angel of a wife needs atonement,” Tevye said to his new friend, Aharon, who led the way to a treeless plot at the colony’s border. Tevye was surprised to see rows upon rows of gravestones in the cemetery of the young village, which Aharon called a yishuv. So many deaths in the short years of its history could be seen as an ominous sign. But philosophical speculation could wait. The time had arrived to put Golda to rest in the sacred ground of Eretz HaKodesh, the Holy Land. With the farmers of Rishon sharing in the work, a grave was dug out in no time.

When they were finished, Tevye got down on his knees. “Rest in peace, dear Golda,” he whispered, gently patting down the soil covering her final abode. “You don’t have to worry any more, my princess. Though, of course, I know that you will. What other pleasure does a Jewish woman have? Please forgive me for having disturbed your sweet sleep, and for shlepping you all over the world, but, you see, it has all turned out for the best. Put in a good word for our daughters, that they may find husbands who will honor them like queens, and give regards to my father and mother. With God’s help, your Tevye will take care of the rest.”

The funeral assembly made its way back to the colony along a path bordered by tall eucalyptus trees. The sweet smells of the Rishon winery hung in the air. Vegetables of all sizes, colors, and shapes filled the gardens beside every house. When they arrived at the mess hall, everyone wanted to continue the party, but a short, clean-shaven man stood on the steps of the porch blocking their way. He wore a Fedora hat and a tailored suit incongruous to the hot, rustic locale. As if to accentuate his aristocratic image, he gripped a riding crop in leather-gloved hands.

“The party is over,” he shouted. He spoke in a rudimentary Yiddish, but his accent was unmistakably French. “Everyone is to return to their work. The Baron isn’t subsidizing this enterprise to have you squander his wine and engage in extravagant parties in the middle of the afternoon. There are rules to this colony, and it is my job to enforce them. As for the newcomers, let it be known that Rishon LeZion is not interested in absorbing any new workers. The Jewish Colonization Association has several young settlements to the north which are accepting new candidates. Inquiries can be made at company headquarters in Zichron Yaacov. Under the authority invested in me as Manager of this yishuv, I hereby order all new arrivals to immediately evacuate the colony confines.”

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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