“Don’t give up, Tevye!” the voice echoed in his brain like a song. “Don’t give up! Don’t despair!”
The sun blazed high in the sun. Dizzy with exhaustion, he remembered Rabbi Kook’s words, “Each Jew has to be like a thousand.”
An illumination, as bright as the sun, filled all of his being. All of the suffering and all of the trials were coming to transform Tevye, the milkman, into Tevye, the pioneer builder.
When his arms were too tired to lift up the bucket, he felt someone come to his aid. Goliath stood by his side, in a pool of dazzling sunshine, helping him lift the bucket out of the swamp. Goliath, as alive and real as could be.
“Don’t give up, Tevye! Don’t despair!” he urged.
Squinting into the swamp water’s brilliant reflections, Tevye saw that Goliath wasn’t alone. Shmuelik, stood beside him, his hands outstretched, waiting to grab a bucket! He took the bucket from Tevye and passed it to Guttmacher! The undertaker passed the bucket to Bat Sheva! With a smile, Tevye’s daughter handed the bucket to Guttmacher’s wife! And Guttmacher’s wife passed the bucket to Golda! They were all there beside him, working in the swamp. And they weren’t alone. Hundreds worked with them. Turning around in astonishment, Tevye saw his oldest daughter,Tzeitl, and Motel, the tailor! He saw his mother and father! He saw faces from Anatevka whom he had known as a boy! He saw Jews from all ages, from countries all over the world! He saw the Baal Shem Tov and the Gaon of Vilna! He saw Rabbi Akiva and Bar Kochva! He saw Judah the Maccabee and King David working side by side, hurling waterfalls of refuse out of the swamp. Encouraged, Tevye set back to work. He wasn’t one single man, but an army. Elisha, and Ariel, and Yigal, and Nachman, and Hillel, and Munsho, and Shilo, and Shimon, and Reb Shraga, the scribe, all joined in the task of draining the swamp. Together with Tevye, and with all of the Jews of the past, they filled their buckets again and again, transforming a curse into a blessing, and bringing new life to their cherished Promised Land. For all the Jews of the future.