“Where are you going?!” Carmel asked.
“To show off our baby,” Tevye answered.
“Is he crazy?” one of the women asked.
“Father,” Ruchel protested. “You can’t!”
But nothing was going to stop Tevye. He had waited for this moment for a lifetime – almost as long as Abraham had waited for his cherished son, Issac. When the crowd saw Tevye holding the child aloft in the air, a new wave of simcha filled everyone’s heart. The settlers formed a circle around Tevye and everyone danced. At the door of their tent, Carmel’s eyes filled with tears. She thanked God in her heart for being the one to have brought Tevye such gladness.
Eight days later, everyone in the settlement once again gathered for the brit. Tevye ran around nervously, like a chicken without a head, making sure that everything was ready for the circumcision. With trembling hands, he put on his prayer shawl and tefillin. Then, like a protective mother hen, he watched every move which Yisroel, the ritual slaughterer, made as he removed the baby’s diaper.
“Don’t worry, Tevye. It isn’t my first circumcision,” the combination shochet, butcher, and mohel assured him.
“Just remember, it isn’t a flank of mutton.”
“Maybe you would prefer to do it yourself,” Yisroel suggested as Tevye continued to breathe down his neck.
The nervous father backed off. The way his hands were trembling, the last thing in the world he wanted to hold was the glistening knife.
Upon Yisroel’s instructions, Tevye set his son gently on the lap of the sandak, Elisha, who was also draped in a prayer shawl, in accord with the great honor of his role. Tevye’s voice cracked as he recited the emotional blessings, thanking God for bringing his son into the covenant of Abraham, and for having allowed Tevye to experience this long-dreamed-for day. Nachman recited the blessing over the wine and formally announced the child’s name – Tzvi Schneur Zalman ben Tevye. The mother and father had decided to name the boy Tzvi after the Land of Israel which was called Eretz HaTzvi, the land of the deer. And they gave him the name Schneur Zalman after Tevye’s father, may his memory be for a blessing. Everyone present shared the same uplifting feeling that, with all the hardships, the Jewish People live on!
Upon the birth of his son, the anger that Tevye had felt after Bat Sheva’s death transformed into a feeling of joy. If his frenzied labor had been fueled by an unresolved fury, Tevye was now propelled forward by a feeling of gratitude and great blessing. If he had worked with the strength of one thousand men after the death of Bat Sheva, now he worked with the strength of two thousand, one thousand to carry on the dreams of the past, and one thousand to build the world of the future. His baby boy had entered into the covenant between God and the Jewish People, making him an inheritor of the Land of Israel, and Tevye wanted to turn the desolate land into a Garden of Eden so that his son would grow up to harvest the fruit from the seeds which his father had planted.
When the marshes were dry, the Baron Rothschild was persuaded to advance the budding yishuv a large sum of money. Tools were purchased, fields were plowed, wheat and fruit trees were planted. Lumber arrived from Jaffa in wagons and boats. Houses, barns, worksheds, and fences were built. As if overnight, a synagogue appeared on a hill. Tevye lent a hand in all of the labor, whether it was clearing rocks from a road, leveling a sand dune, or pitching hay into a loft. Work was the key to the future. Work was the path of success. Work was the way a man could serve God, Rebbono Shel Olam, in the great endeavor of rebuilding the land.
Tevye no longer complained. He no longer felt bitter. His trust in God was complete. The Lord had taken loved ones away, and the Lord had given new ones to nurture and love. The dark cloud that was hanging over his life had been blown out to sea. The future was filled with sunshine and light. It was a time of happiness, a time of hope, a time to plant, a time to build, a time to take long walks with his wife, cradling his baby boy in his arms. Miraculously, he no longer felt like an old, broken-down man. He felt young!
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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