The holy sage invited the men into his book-filled study. Tevye suggested to Hevedke that he stay outside to guard the wagon. Rabbi Kook said it wasn’t necessary, the neighborhood was safe, but Tevye insisted. He wanted to discuss the delicate matter of Hevedke and Hava in privacy. With a glance at the fair Russian poet, Rabbi Kook understood. Ushering Tevye, Nachman, and Goliath into his study, he asked his wife to kindly prepare them some tea.
Tevye guessed that he was several years older than the Chief Rabbi of Jaffa, but he felt like a young man in his presence. The Rabbi’s aura of wisdom and piety commanded unquestioned respect. Tevye had the feeling that he was in the presence of a king. Whether it was the Rabbi himself, the library of holy books, or something more mystical, Tevye didn’t know, but the awe of the High Holy Days pervaded the room.
With genuine interest, the Rabbi asked where they had lived before their arrival in Israel. He had of course heard about the terrible pogroms sweeping through Russia, and he was visibly chagrined to hear about the murder of Nachman’s father, may the Almighty revenge his spilled blood. He himself had studied in the Yeshiva of Volozin, and he dreaded that the great Torah center would also fall prey to the ever-spreading attacks.
“We have to understand that the time has come for the Jewish people to return home to Zion,” he said. “God has decreed. The ingathering of the exiles is at hand. We can choose to hear the shofar of freedom calling us back to Zion on our own, or we can be compelled to hear it by the Czars and Cossacks of the world. I fear in my innermost being that if we don’t hear the call of our prophets; if we don’t actualize the words of our prayers to return to the Land of our forefathers and rebuild our ancient cities; if we close our eyes to the expulsions and murders which come upon us every day in the exile; if we cling to foreign lands and foreign rulers and foreign ways, then a wave of horrible violence will come upon us, more devastating than anything we have experienced before.”
The Rabbi’s eyes blazed as if envisioning some unspeakable horror beyond the walls of his study. Tevye trembled. Nachman sat breathlessly listening to every word.
“The spirit of Israel is awakening,” the Rabbi continued. “The soul of our nation is demanding its own Land. Zion is to become a beacon of light to the world, and we who are fortunate to hear the voice of our forefathers calling to us from the past, it is our job to teach others to hear the call too.”
“I am only a simple milkman,” Tevye confided. “I came to Eretz Yisrael because my daughter is here with her husband on some communist kibbutz in the north.”
“You have come home to Zion for much more than that,” the Rabbi answered with a smile in his eyes. “The Almighty has chosen you, Reb Tevye, to be one of the builders, one of the pioneers. In this generation, in this monumental time of our national rebirth on our holy, ancient soil, there can be no simple milkmen, no simple Jews. Each one of us is called upon to be like a thousand until all of our scattered brethren flock here to join us.”
“Even if I understood all of the things which your honor is saying, I don’t think my atheist son-in-law would listen.”
“No Jew is an atheist,” Rabbi Kook answered. “No matter how confused our young people are with foreign ideas and creeds, the Jewish soul is always pure. Sometimes our eyes are blind and our ears are deaf, but our inner souls long for our God and our Torah. We carry the flame of our heritage eternally within our hearts. Nothing can extinguish it, not even two-thousand years of darkness and exile. If your son-in-law doesn’t listen, then his children, or his children’s children will. The repentance of our nation is promised. `For from Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of God from Jerusalem.’ In the light of this great beacon shining out from Jerusalem, all of mankind will come to recognize the Kingship of God over the earth.