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Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Three: Off to the Promised Land

Tevye in the Promised Land

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Tevye glanced up to the Heavens. “What now?” he asked. “How can Your servant, Tevye, please his Master and King? Haven’t our Sages taught us that even a man with good eyesight is blind before his future. You are my shepherd. Send me a sign. Tell us, dear Lord, which way should we go?”

Hershel, the sandal maker, drove by in his wagon.

“Waiting for Mashiach?” he asked.

“May his coming be soon,” Tevye said. “And what about you? Where are you off to?”

“I have a distant cousin in London. They say there are more than a million people there. That’s two million feet for my shoes. I am going to be a multi-millionaire. What about you?”

“I am a millionaire already. Look at my daughters. Can a man be wealthier than that?”

“That’s what they say: `Tevye is known for his beautiful daughters,’ but they also say, `Happy is the man who does not walk in the council of the wicked’ – meaning the Zionists.”

“Wasn’t God a Zionist?” Tevye asked. “Didn’t He tell Abraham and Moses to go and dwell in Israel?”

“God is God, and Abraham and Moses are Abraham and Moses. What do Hershel, the sandal maker, and Tevye, the milkman, have to do with them?”

“What about your Shendel and my Golda?” Tevye asked. “Are you going to bring her to London when you could bring her to the holy soil of Eretz Yisrael?”

“My Shendel, may her soul rest in peace, always talked about going to London to visit her cousin. Now she will have her chance.”

“My Golda, may her memory be for a blessing, wouldn’t have know where London was even if you had shown it to her on a map. Such a pure soul never existed. She lived only for her poor beast of a husband and her seven daughters. Doesn’t a woman like this deserve to be buried in the Tomb of our Forefathers? In the Cave of Hevron? Or on the way to Efrata, in Bet-Lechem, beside our mother, Rachel?”

“Think of your daughters, Tevye. Who will they find there to marry? The Zionists? The blasphemers of our holy Torah? It can only come to no good.”

Tevye nodded his head. His friend, Reb Hershel was right. All his life he had struggled to build a protective wall around his daughters, so that the evil of modern times would not lead them astray. And now, in a weak moment, he was thinking of following the Zionists on their journey, like a shepherd who abandons his lambs to packs of roving wolves. The sandal maker’s warning was filled with common sense. Tevye had to think of his children. It would be better to take them to their sister, Baylke, in New York. Hadn’t she written that she wanted them to come to America to help her pick the gold off the streets? And if it meant stomaching her good-for-nothing husband, so be it. Tevye was ready to swallow his pride for the sake of his family. In America, he could get a matchmaker to find kosher husbands for Bat Sheva and Ruchel, and two kosher suitors for Tzeitl and Hava too.

“Onward, Reb Hershel,” Tevye said. “You lead the way, and we shall follow.”

As Tevye mounted the wagon, he could see the poet, Galagan in the distance, waiting to see which direction their wagon would take. Behind him, a lone figure came running along the road, waving a hand in the air and shouting something which was lost in the wind. When his family was secure in the wagon, Tevye urged on his horse. With a tug, the four-legged creature inched the heavy load forward. The wagon squeaked. Grudgingly, the wheels started to roll. “What was the hurry?” the horse seemed to say. Though he wasn’t a Jew, the beast had been listening to Tevye’s soliloquies for years, and he had learned the difference between the Sabbath and an ordinary day of the week. With an animal’s sense, he knew it would be a long journey. So he took his time catching up to the wagons ahead of them.

It wasn’t long before Tevye heard someone calling his name. He glanced around to see Borsky, the Russian mailman, running after the wagon, out of breath, a letter held aloft in his hand. Once again, Tevye pulled on the reins. The mailman collapsed by the seat of the wagon. He handed Tevye the letter. Compassionately, Tzeitl handed him some water to drink.

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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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