“This letter arrived just after you left,” he said between pants. “I figured it was the decent thing to do, to bring it to you, after you’ve been delivering our milk for so many years.”
“My appreciation,” Tevye said. He handed the letter to Hava, his reader of books.
“It’s from Hodel!” she exclaimed. “From Palestine!”
“From Palestine?” Tevye mumbled, unable to believe what he heard.
Quickly, she opened the envelope. Her lips silently read through the letter. Impatiently, Tevye grabbed it and held it up to his eyes to see for himself. It was truly from Hodel. He recognized her handwriting. Unable to decipher her swirls, he handed the letter back to his daughter. Her eyes raced over the feminine script.
“Well?” Tzeitl asked. “What does it say?”
“Perchik was let out of prison on the condition that he leave Russia and never return. They’ve been in Eretz Yisrael since the beginning of the winter. Perchik is busy working the land and organizing a worker’s committee which he says will be the beginning of the new Jewish State.”
“Skip all of his crazy meshugenneh slogans,” her father impatiently said.
“We are living in a new settlement called Shoshana with another thirty families,” she read. “We have heard of the pogroms in Russia and want you to come. The Land of Israel is beautiful, and the skies are like out of a dream. And there are several religious settlements for you, father, that the Baron Rothschild has built.”
“Religious settlements?” Tevye inquired.
“That’s what she writes,” Hava answered.
“Is that all?” Tevye asked.
“No. There’s one other thing,” Hava said with a smile. “Hodel is pregnant.”
A big grin lit Tevye’s face. “Mazal tov!” he said. “Baruch Hashem, thank the good Lord.”
“Mazal tov,” the Russian mailman said. The two men shook hands. They had been good friends for years until the Czar and the dark clouds of history had declared the Jews traitors.
“Tzeitl, get me the vodka from out of the crate,” Tevye commanded.
A pregnant daughter was reason to celebrate. A grandchild meant that Tevye would survive on in the generations to come. But that wasn’t all. A grandchild born in the Promised Land was something much greater. It was a fulfillment of prophecy. It was the hope of new life not only for Tevye’s family, but for the Jewish people as a whole. How many Jewish fathers in the last thousand years could boast of an achievement like that?
Tzeitl dutifully opened the chest and handed a bottle to her father. Tevye pulled out the cork. With a hearty “L’Chaim! To life!” he took a deep slug. Then he handed the bottle to the mailman.
“You have brought us this happiness,” Tevye said. “May the Almighty reward you with healthy children of your own.”
The mailman drank a “L’Chaim” and handed the bottle back to the Jew.
“Are we going to Palestine?” Bat Sheva asked. “I want to see Hodel.”
“So do I,” Ruchel said.
“We all do,” Tzeitl agreed.
Everyone waited for an answer from Tevye. He looked to his right, and he looked to his left, as if judging his options. What was more important? Money, or the promise of milk and honey? On one side of the world, there was Hodel. Only a Jacob, who had lost his son Joseph, could know how much Tevye had missed her. Since the day she had left Anatevka, not an evening had passed without her memory flashing before him as he fell off to sleep. Then again, on the other side of the ocean were Baylke, and the gold of America’s streets. But the thought of her husband, Pedhotzer, turned Tevye’s stomach. True, Hodel’s heretic was no bargain either – the young revolutionary could make a listener dizzy with his mishegoss notions about saving the world. But though his head was stuffed with goose feathers, he had a good heart. A few children of his own would teach him that before a man can save the world, he has to be sure that there is bread on the table at home. And finally, Tevye knew that if he wanted to keep the chain of tradition and Torah intact in his family, he himself would have to be on hand in the Land of Israel to teach his grandchild the beauty of the “Shema Yisrael” prayer.