“See for yourself,” the happy Muktar said, pointing at his daughter.
With the veil hiding the lower half of her face, it was hard to tell how she was feeling. But the look of deep gratitude in her black, flashing eyes told Tevye that she had recovered.
The Muktar barked at his daughter, obviously commanding her to lower the veil for the doctor. When her fingers pushed the silk strands away, Tevye understood why Abdulla was so passionately concerned about his eldest daughter. She was, by all standards, a beauty.
“I can never repay you enough,” the chief said. “But to show you my gratitude, I want to give you my daughter in marriage. She will convert to your religion. She will learn to speak Hebrew. I promise you, she will be an obedient wife.”
Tevye was dumbfounded. For one of the few times in his life, he couldn’t find words.
The Arab held out his hand for his daughter to come down from the wagon. A slender golden leg appeared from the folds of her sari-like gown as she stepped down to the ground. Flustered, Tevye glanced away at his garden.
“Isn’t she beautiful?” the Muktar asked, proudly displaying the girl, as if she were a horse in the market.
Gracefully, like a snake in the grass, the girl moved forward in her long flowing dress. She was young, yes, but a woman all the same. Long black hair cascaded over her shoulders. Embarrassed, Tevye couldn’t find words.
“Please,” Abdulla said. “Take her. She’s yours.”
With the Muktar grabbing his arm, it was impossible for Tevye not to gaze at the girl. But even if a flood of raging waters were to smash the dam inside him, he would never, never give in. Some things were unthinkable. Some things could never be condoned. How could he ever face God? And how could he ever look at his daughters? What would become of all he had taught them if he himself were to be conquered by the wild beating in his heart? No, he would rather spend his life in the barn with the horses and cows than take some strange Delilah for a wife.
“Save me, dear Golda, save me,” he thought, clinging to her memory with all of his might.
“I will give you a rich dowry with land and with horses when you take her,” the Arab chief promised. “The marriage will be like a peace treaty between our two peoples.”
Tevye shook his head. No, no, it never could be. But he couldn’t find the right words to answer.
“Isn’t it written in your Bible that a man should not live alone? Allah heard your prayers and brought my girl back to life. Now she is yours forever.”
Tevye shook his head. He glanced at the girl, and her eyes flashed a look of unabashed gratitude, so bold and direct that Tevye felt as if a bomb had gone off in his head. He looked down at the ground, but even the mere sight of her sandaled foot made him shudder.
“Golda, save me,” he prayed.
Just then, Shmuelik called out his name. He stood in the doorway of the hut which served as the community synagogue. It was time for the afternoon prayer. Apologizing to the Muktar, Tevye said he had to hurry and pray before the sun sank in the west. He literally ran away, happier than he had ever been in his life about going to shul. The service had already started. Tevye stood there to make up the minyan of ten, but neither his mind nor his heart could focus on the words of the prayer. The eyes of the Muktar‘s daughter haunted him wherever he looked.
“Gevalt,” he thought. “Please God forgive me for sinful thoughts and get me out of this mess.”
At the end of the Kaddish, he grabbed Elisha and desperately took him aside.
“You have to help me,” he said. “Abdulla is waiting outside. His daughter recovered, and he’s so grateful, he’s brought her to Morasha to give her to me as a gift.”
“As a daughter?”
“As a wife.”
“Mazal tov!” the Yemenite said.
“What mazal tov?” Tevye stammered. “This is the work of the devil. You have got to do something to save me.”
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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