Embarrassed at Tevye’s behavior, the saintly Issac lowered his glance.
“Abba, be fair,” Hava pleaded. “Once upon a time you were angry at Issac for not being Jewish. Now you are angry at him for being too much of a Jew. Isn’t studying Torah the greatest mitzvah of all?”
Tevye grumbled. He dropped his raised hand to his side. He looked at the red-bearded scholar who stood humbly before him. Was this really the braggart Hevedke, or was the scoundrel acting out a role in some Chekov play? Tevye didn’t know what to think. Yes, studying the Torah was the greatest mitzvah there was. But building the land was also a supremely holy deed. Why should this one sit and learn all day long, when others slaved like mules, breaking their backs from morning until night in the fields? On the other hand, Tevye reasoned, if nobody learned, how would the scholarly traditions be guarded? Who would teach the future generations? Who would make sure that the menorah of Torah kept burning?
But just as important to Tevye, the father, was the ultimate question – if this Chaim Yankel of a son-in-law were to study full time in Jaffa, who would look after Tevye’s daughter?
“A husband belongs with his wife!” Tevye decreed.
There was silence in the tent. The newlyweds exchanged worried glances.
“I am proud of Issac’s decision,” Hava insisted. “I want him to study. And I can look after myself. If I were with him in Jaffa, I would only take his mind away from his learning.”
“I know I am an old man who is losing his senses,” Tevye said, “but tell me one thing. Why did you bother to marry?!”
“Because we love each other,” Issac answered. “As King Solomon said, ‘The greatest floodwaters cannot quench love.’”
“Now he’s quoting King Solomon!” Tevye responded.
“The arrangement won’t be forever,” Issac assured. “And I will come to visit as often as I can.”
“We only came to inform you, not to ask your permission,” Hava said with a peppery tone to her voice. Tevye was speechless. Not to ask his permission? He stared at his strong-willed daughter. That was the Havila he remembered. She hadn’t listened to him in the past, why should she now? The two young people loved each other, that was certain. What could he do? At least Hevedke was taking off to study in a yeshiva, and not, God forbid, to become a priest in some church. A Jewish father could be thankful for that.