“Isn’t there something that can help them?” Bat Sheva asked.
“Prayer,” the nurse said. “We try to make them comfortable, but there is really nothing we can do. All of the medicines we have tried haven’t had any effect.”
“That’s impossible,” Tevye said. “There must be some way to cure them.”
Neither Hava nor the nurse had an answer. Tevye stepped over to Chaim Lev, the fixer, and put a hand on his feverish head. In his delirium, he didn’t even notice that Tevye was there.
A young doctor arrived and asked Tevye to wait outside the tent.
“He’s my father,” Hava said. “The grandfather of the boy.”
“I’m sorry,” the doctor replied. “He’ll have to wait outside. You also,” he said to Bat Sheva.
“I held him all of the way here in the wagon,” she protested. “If the boy has the plague, then I have it too.”
“Not necessarily,” the doctor answered. “Some people seem to have natural immunities.”
Tevye didn’t want to waste time by arguing, so he left the doctor alone to examine the boy. He stood outside the tent with his eyes closed, praying. Over and over again, he asked the Almighty to heal the boy. He prayed for the health of all of the settlers. A few minutes later, the doctor appeared. Tevye stared at him anxiously.
“I’m afraid the boy has the cholera too. We will try to bleed him, but it hasn’t helped the others. I’ll ask Dr. Schwartz to look at him just to be sure.”
“Bleed him?” Tevye asked. The idea sounded awful. Didn’t the Torah teach that a person’s lifeforce was contained in his blood?
“That’s the standard procedure,” the doctor said.
“Won’t that just weaken him?”
The young doctor shrugged.
“I won’t allow it!” Tevye emphatically shouted. “I won’t allow it. Do you hear?”
“Very well,” the doctor said. “We really only do it when we
don’t know what other action to take.”
A great weariness overtook Tevye. Hava came out of the tent and told them to go to the workers’ dining hall where they could get some food. In the meantime, she would watch over Moishe.
Tevye and Bat Sheva were riding back to the center of the moshav when a bearded Jew ran up to the wagon.
“Are you Tevye?” he called.
“That’s right,” the milkman answered. “And who are you?”
“Just a simple Jew,” the man said.
“Just a simple Jew?” Tevye answered. “Can there be such a thing? Every Jew is a son of the King.”
The man held up a finger to his lips. “Shhh,” he whispered. “I prefer to keep that a secret. I like a quiet life. If people were to find out that I have a special connection to the King, they’d pester me day and night with all kinds of requests.”
“Isn’t it our duty to help others in need?”
“The King has many sons. Let them worry about the problems of the world.”
“Tell me, how did you know my name?” Tevye asked.
“I had a dream last night that you would be coming, and so far you are the only stranger I’ve seen.”
“May your dream be a good omen.”
“I have a message for you.”
“My ears are ringing,” Tevye said.
“You are to immerse the sick boy in the holy mikvah in Safed. There, God will answer your prayers.”
Safed was the name of the renowned holy city where great Jewish mystics had lived. The “Ari,” Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, was the most famous of all. Much of the Kabbalah had been based on his teachings. There was a legend that anyone who immersed himself in the running, mountain-spring water of his legendary mikvah would be miraculously blessed in the waters which flowed from the Garden of Eden.
“Oh, father, you don’t really believe in such nonsense?” Bat Sheva chided.
“Quiet,” he ordered, turning back to man in the road. “What else did you see in your dream?” Tevye asked.
“Not a thing,” the Jew confessed. “The young fellow who appeared in the dream took off in a very big hurry.”
“What was his name?”
“That’s right,” said the stranger. “He told me to tell you his name.”