“An agreement is an agreement,” she triumphantly said.
“He still has to study the Torah,” Tevye answered, clinging to the hope that time would extinguish the stubborn flame in their hearts.
But the bonds which had already formed were not to be broken so easily. Hava was in love with Hevedke, and her faith in him made her certain that he would overcome every obstacle which her father placed in his path. If he had to study the Torah to complete his trial, Hevedke was no stranger to books. It was his keen, open mind that had attracted Hava to him in the first place. Back in Anatevka, his discourses on Aristotle, Shakespeare, and Dostoyevsky had captured her heart. On their walks through the country, he filled her head with a new vision of the world, where all men were equal to share in God’s blessing. It was a world without boundaries and prejudices, based on brotherhood and universal love, far more inspiring than the ghetto of Anatevka with its superstitious mistrust of anything and anyone new. At least, it had seemed that way to Hava when she ran away from her family to marry her poet and to embrace his modern, enlightened world. But the pogroms and expulsions had shattered her dream, teaching her and Hevedke alike that behind the beautiful speeches of Tolstoy lay a festering darkness which sought to wipe out the true light of God in the world.
The first chance she had, when her father went off to arrange passage to Palestine, Hava rushed off with Hevedke, filled with a burning desire to be alone with the man she had sworn not to see. He reached out for her hand and whisked her down an alley to the back of a warehouse. They stood there, holding hands, without saying a word. For Hava, just being near him again was enough.
“Oh my valiant, faithful Hevedke,” she said.
“Did your father see you run off?” he asked.
“No,” she replied, wanting him to kiss her.
“He will kill me if he finds us together.”
“It’s all right,” she assured him.
“When he finds you gone, he will surely come looking.”
“Stop worrying,” she told him. “Kiss me before I drop dead.”
“I can’t. I made a promise to your father, and I intend to keep it.”
At first, Hava was offended. She was dumbfounded by his words. She gazed at the light of honesty which shone in his eyes and realized that was the reason she loved him. His soul was pure and inspired by a passion for truth.
“I want to do everything I must in order to truly make you my wife,” he avowed.
“I am willing to wait if I have to,” she promised.
“Oh, Hava, I love you,” he said. “More than the oceans and more than the seas. Nothing can come between us.”
She stared in his eyes. “I worry about you,” she said.
“I’m fine,” he assured her. “Your God is looking after me now. You see, He brought me here even before you arrived.”
“How?” she asked.
“I boarded the same freighter that you were scheduled to take.”
“What happened to the policeman?”
“He got wet, that’s all. And his pride was insulted. But the Jews of Odessa fared a lot worse. The day after you left, there was a terrible pogrom. People were killed. The little Jew who helped you was arrested.”
“How awful,” Hava said.
“We will have a better life in Palestine,” Hevedke promised. “And once we set up a house of our own, we will work to bring all the Jews in Russia home to the Promised Land.”
Hava smiled with happiness.
“You had better hurry back,” he said. “I don’t want to give your father a chance to renege on his end of the bargain.”
Hava longed for a parting kiss, but Hevedke held her away and made her settle with a smile.
“Can’t you kiss me just once?” she asked him.
“Your father may not be watching, but God is,” he said. “I have to be true to Him, too.”
Reluctantly, he took a few steps backwards, smiled goodbye, and ran off down the alley.
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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