In Hebrew, the expression “Olat HaShachar” meant “dawn.” As they set out on their new adventure, Nachman explained to his fellow pioneers that the Talmud describes the redemption of Israel using the very same term. Salvation, the Rabbis taught, comes in slow, gradual stages, like a dawning new day. After the darkness of exile, slowly, slowly, the light of salvation begins to appear on the nation. At first, small, scattered groups of Jews return to Zion. Fields are plowed. Houses are built. Fruit once again grows on the stark, barren hillsides. Little by little, more Jews arrive and more homes are built, until one day, as if miraculously, a new country is born.
“Spoken like Rabbi Kook,” Tevye approvingly said.
“Yes,” the young scholar admitted with blush. “I have heard Rabbi Kook describe our revival in the Land of Israel in this very light.”
“Nothing good comes easy.” the scribe, Shraga, said.
“Not only that,” Nachman added. “Just as the darkest part of the night comes just before the dawn, so too, we can expect to see more difficult times before experiencing the fruits of our labor.”
“The birthpains of Mashiach,” Guttmacher noted, referring to the long-awaited messiah.
“If you ask me,” Tevye said, “the bad times are over. We suffered enough labor pains in Morasha, may its memory be erased from our minds. Good times lay ahead.”
“From your mouth to God’s ears,” Munsho replied.
“We have had enough darkness,” Tevye declared. “As the Almighty Himself said, ‘Let there be light.’”
Hillel popped a cork out of a bottle of wine.
“L’Chaim!” he called.
Everyone responded, “L‘Chaim!”
As it turned out, Nachman’s warning was right. As they reached the new settlement, a rank, musky smell of foul, stagnant water hung heavily in the air. The acres and acres of supposedly rich black soil was nothing but swamp. Sand dunes and swamp. Sand dunes and swamp, as far as the eye could see.