The change wasn’t only on the outside. Instead of the conceited confidence which Hava remembered, there was a quietness and calmness to him now. Instead of speaking first, he waited for others to voice their opinions. Instead of staring at her boldly, he turned his eyes modestly away toward the ground. And the new Issac’s Hebrew was a wonder. Unlike her own clumsy accent, his Hebrew came out like a song.
Ever since she had received Issac’s letter, Hava had been in a daze. The day he was due to arrive, she took the afternoon off from her work. She dressed up in her prettiest outfit, but after meeting him, she soon realized that if her beauty had attracted him before, now he was interested in something much deeper. Curiously, she sensed that he was far more religious than she was. While she wore her Jewishness naturally, like a comfortable robe, he seemed to work at it with all of his might. In a way, his newfound religious fervor seemed like a barrier that got in the way. He listened intently to everything she said. He earnestly wanted to hear everything that had happened to her and her family. But something was missing. When she spoke of the tragedies, his head shook with sorrow, and when she related the joys, his face shone in a smile, but the love which had flowed between them so naturally now seemed to be much more guarded and formal. It didn’t show in anything he said. Nor in any facial expression. With a woman’s sensitivity, she felt a barrier between them instead of a bond. But this, Hava hoped, was only a matter of time. After all, for more than a year, he had been living with nothing but books and long beards. Of course he behaved like a rabbi. Surely with time, his newfound modesty would thaw, and he would return to being the man who had swept her off her feet.
As they talked, they strolled around Zichron Moshe, wandering through the fields, the orchards, the pastures, and vineyards. Hava pointed out the winery, the barrel factory, the duck pond, and infirmary. She had written him about her job as a nurse, but she still had a lot of stories to tell. Behind the hospital building, Hava stopped and motioned toward the small village of tents in the distance where her father and sisters were living. On orders from the JCA office in Paris, the Morasha colony had been abandoned until the epidemic had passed. Their family, along with the rest of the Morasha settlers, had been quarantined for the past several weeks in the tent colony to make sure that no one had contacted the fatal disease. Doctors in Paris had decreed that the Morasha carriers could jeopardize the health of entire Jewish community in the country. But, thank God, ever since Tevye had returned from the mikvah in Safed, no other deaths had occurred.
“Can’t I even wish them shalom?” Issac asked.
“I’m sorry,” Hava answered. “We have strict orders that only the hospital staff is allowed to make visits.”
“How long do they have to be there?’
“Not much longer I hope.”
“They could catch pneumonia in those tents,” Issac said in concern.
“God forbid,” Hava replied.
“Yes, of course,” Issac corrected himself. “God forbid.”
As they stared out at the tents, Hava gently reached over and took a hold of Issac’s hand. Awkwardly, he pulled it away.
“No one can see us,” she said.
“It isn’t allowed,” he answered.
“We were once-upon-a-time married, you know.”
“You know that marriage doesn’t count.”
“Hevedke,” she said with a blush, “I want a husband, not a rabbi.”
The tall, bearded man averted her gaze.
“We have waited this long, we can wait a little longer,” he answered. “And please call me Issac. I hate the name Hevedke.”
“I’m sorry, Issac,” she told him. “I promise I will.”
They agreed to get married as soon as her father was allowed to leave quarantine. When the sun began to set, Issac hurried off to the synagogue to join the afternoon prayers. Filled with excitement, Hava ran out to the tents behind the infirmary to tell her family the news. But to her surprise, her father was missing.
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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