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Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Thirty-One: Hevedke the Jew

The next chapter of the award-winning novel.
Cover of Tevye in the Promised Land by Tzvi Fishman.

Only Hodel felt left out of the simcha. Ever since she had run away from Perchik, she hadn’t heard a word from her stubborn mule of a husband. But she was happy for her sister just the same.

Three weeks later, Bat Sheva married Elisha’s son, Ariel. Thus Ariel became not only Tevye’s brother-in-law, but his son-in-law as well. The wedding was more modest in size, but lovely all the same. Ariel’s sisters insisted on dressing Bat Sheva in the traditional Yemenite wedding gown and decorative head dress which Tevye’s wife, Carmel, had worn at her wedding. Tevye stood up during the festive dinner and held up a glass and a vintage bottle of wine. “Shecheyanu, v’keeymanu, v’higeyanu l’hazman hazeh!” he called out, thanking the Lord for having kept him alive to see this great day. Finally, all of his daughters were married! He could imagine his Golda kvelling with joy in Heaven. True, he still had to figure out a way to get rid of Hodel’s communist pig farmer, but, with patience, that happy day would arrive as well.

The string of weddings had a healing effect on the Morasha settlers. It was even rumored that the matchmaker had arranged a shidduch for Reb Guttmacher, with a rich widow who lived in Rechovot.

“Didn’t King Solomon say that there is a time for every thing?” Tevye reminded his friend, the undertaker, when he came to pour out his heart and his feelings of guilt. “A time to die and a time to live?”

“Is it right,” the undertaker asked, “that I should remarry when the worms are still eating my wife?”

“Of course it is right,” Tevye answered. “Didn’t I remarry? And I am glad that I did.”

Not only was Tevye glad – he was flabbergasted. His Carmel, God bless her, was pregnant!

“Stop acting so surprised,” Elisha told him on that dizzying day when his wife had informed him.

“Whoever thought?” Tevye stammered.

“Did you forget what it leads to?”

“At my age?”

Elisha’s eyes twinkled. “Yemenite women are fertile,” he said. “Families with ten children are small.”

“Ten children?” Tevye exclaimed.

“My grandmother raised eighteen.”

Rachmonis,” Tevye moaned. “May the Lord have mercy.”

Elisha quoted a few verses of Psalms. “Happy is the man who eats from the labor of his hands. Thy wife shall be like a fruitful vine inside thy house; thy children like olive plants around thy table.”

What was meant to be, would be, Tevye thought. And what wasn’t meant to be, wouldn’t. For instance, Morasha. After Arab marauders had burnt it to the ground, it seemed that establishing a settlement on that site just hadn’t been a part of the Almighty’s great Divine plan. The houses which the Morasha settlers had built had been razed. The saplings they had planted had been pulled out of the earth. The fields they had sown had been trampled by horses. As it says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who labor to build it, labor in vain.” What could a man do against the judgment of God? The great ledger in the sky had been opened, the Hand had written, and the sentence had been decreed. The ways of the Lord were a mystery. The task of a man was to lower his head in submission and say, “Baruch Hashem,” thanking God over misfortune, just as he thanked God when events turned out for the good.

Who knew, Tevye thought? Maybe if they had remained in Morasha, the plague would have killed them all. Maybe, its deadly microbes were still lingering over the mountain side. Maybe by having the Arabs destroy the colony, God had really saved the Jews from a far graver fate.

Meanwhile, the tent village behind the infirmary had become their temporary home, even after the quarantine had been lifted. Until the Jewish Colony Association purchased a new tract of land, Tevye and his comrades were staying in Zichron Moshe. A vote had been taken, and the settlers had decided that when the epidemic was over, they would refuse to rebuild Morasha. They were tired of saying the mourner’s Kaddish. If Baron Rothschild didn’t like it, he could go and and rebuild the ruins of Morasha himself.

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." For the past several years, he has written a popular and controversial blog at Arutz 7. A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press


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