“It is only another day to Palestine,” Tevye pleaded, raising himself to his knees.
“The coffin goes overboard now,” the captain said.
“Please,” Tevye begged, grabbing onto the captain’s leg. “I beg of you, please.”
“Either you do it now,” the captain threatened, “or my men will do it for you.”
Tevye felt the barrel of a pistol press into his back. He let go of his grip on the captain, not because he was afraid for his own life, but because of his daughters. What would they do if he gave the captain a reason to shoot him? How would they survive all alone? The uncircumcised scoundrels would throw Golda into the ocean whether he helped them or not, so what was the use of resisting?
With his head bowed in anguish and submission, he slowly made his way to the cargo deck of the ship.
“Oy Golda, Oy Golda,” he moaned. “Is this to be your reward? To be thrown to the fish? To have your bones scattered to the ends of the seas? Without any dry earth to warm you, or a flower to grow over your head? Is this to be your reward for being Tevye’s wife for twenty-eight years and for raising his seven daughters?”
Goliath helped him carry the coffin onto the deck. The pistols were still pointed their way. Passengers cursed Tevye as he made his way to the rail. Several tattered umbrellas hit Tevye on the head. Jews crowded around to protect him and keep the crazed, superstitious heathens at bay. His daughters stood at his side, eyes filled with tears. A Hasid with a long beard pushed forward.
“Say Kaddish,” he said.
Tevye closed his eyes. He would rather have jumped into the ocean himself than obey the captain’s orders.
“Don’t cry,” he heard Golda say. “Be strong for the children.”
Catching a sob in his throat, Tevye choked out the words of the mourner’s prayer. “Yisgadal v’yiskadash shemay rabboh… May His Great Name be sanctified and magnified forever.”
The Jews on deck responded, “Amen.”
“Good-bye my love, Golda, good-bye,” Tevye whispered. He balanced the coffin on the rail of the ship and then gave it a push. A chill seized his body upon the sound of the splash. He felt he was going to faint. A hand kept him from falling.
“Be strong, my husband, be strong,” he heard his wife call.
The storm winds howled. A wave towered up over the coffin and snatched it away. A bolt of lighting lit up the sky. The coffin vanished from view. Long after it was gone, Golda’s voice echoed over the ocean.
“Be strong, my Tevye, be strong!”
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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