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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.

Like Abraham and Sarah before them, Tevye and his bride set up their home in a tent. Tevye became a shlepper of wine barrels, hauling them from the Zichron warehouse to the wagons that transported them to Jaffa. And, like fruitful vines, while he was at work, his family expanded and grew. The orphans, Moishe and Little Sarah, came to love Ruchel and Nachman just like a real mother and father. Not only was Tevye’s wife, Carmel, pregnant, Ruchel was too. A radiant smile shone on her face whatever she was doing. Bat Sheva was as happy as could be as a homemaker. Hodel lived in a tent with unmarried young women, and Hava returned to her room in the infirmary dorm.

At first, the newlywed, Hava, was stunned when Issac informed her that he wanted to return to his studies in Jaffa.

“I am just beginning to embark on the real learning of Torah,” he said with an earnest glow in his eyes. “Up till now, I’ve been like a child studying the alphabet, learning to read and to write. If I hope to truly progress, I have to study for years. Don’t you understand, my Havila? I want to feel like a Jew, not only on the outside by growing a beard and wearing a hat, but in the depths of my very being. There are hundreds of books on the shelves of the yeshiva, and I have barely opened a few.”

Realizing how important his learning was to him, Hava didn’t have the heart to protest. He said that in Jaffa, near the yeshiva, they could rent a room in someone’s house. At first that seemed all right with Hava, but as days passed, she began to realize that her work as a nurse in the infirmary was as important to her as Torah learning was to him. Why should she sit alone in a room all the day, waiting for her husband to come home, when she could really help people, and even save lives! Though notices were posted all around the colony, offering free training for nurses, not every young woman was willing to work in a building filled with yellow fever and plagues. As it was, the infirmary at Zichron Yaacov was sorely understaffed. Hava’s energy and selfless devotion had made her one of its most counted-on workers. How could she leave?

After long discussions between them, they came to a joint conclusion. For the Zionist cause to succeed, it needed men learned in Torah, and women who were willing to sacrifice and work, not only at home, but wherever the ocassion demanded. Issac would continue to study in Jaffa. Hava would continue to work at the hospital. They would get together for Shabbos, whether in Zichron or Jaffa, whenever they could.

Firm in their resolve, they entered Tevye’s tent like soldiers reporting before their commanding officer. After they had finished their speeches, Tevye looked incredulously from one to the other. Is this why Hevedke had followed after his daughter all over the world? To leave her for a bunch of yeshiva boys and books? Was this why Hava had torn out her father’s heart in seeking his acceptance of a stranger – to live like a widow in a cholera ward, surrounded with sickness and death? Tevye smashed his fist on the barrel which served as a table.

“No!” he roared. “I won’t allow it! This isn’t love – it’s madness! To hell with Zionism and your crazy meshuganah dreams. A husband is commanded to live with his wife!”

“What about Rabbi Akiva?” answered Hava. “Didn’t he leave his wife, Rachel, to study Torah for twelve years without ever once coming home for a visit?”

“And when he finally went home and reached the window of his house,” Hevedke added, “he overheard her say to a friend that she would be happy if he were to keep studying, so he went straight back to the yeshiva for another twelve years without even saying hello.”

“Don’t quote me Rabbi Akiva!” Tevye shouted. “What do you have in common with a scholar like Rabbi Akiva?”

Tevye raised a hand as if to give the new convert a blow on the head, but Hava reached up and grabbed her father’s arm before it could fall.

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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