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March 27, 2015 / 7 Nisan, 5775
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Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Twenty-Nine: The Plague

Cover of Tevye in the Promised Land by Tzvi Fishman.

“Give us a week to bring you the documents,” Nachman said. “Our colony manager is away on business. Surely he can produce them.”

“The law is the law,” the ruthless Turk answered.

With a flick of the white gloves he carried, he gave a sign to his soldiers. While several stayed on their horses to keep an eye on the Jews, a dozen dismounted and spread out through the village. They raided house after house, pushing out the women and children, throwing furniture out the front door, and knocking down the roofs from inside. Blood rushed to Tevye’s head. Guarded by the soldiers, he stood paralyzed with the rest of the settlers, watching the methodical destruction of their homes. Only the stable, barns, toolshed, and chicken coop were spared. Everything else, the synagogue and all of the houses, were stripped of their roofs.

After Pasha and his soldiers had ridden off with the thief, the Jews wandered in a daze around their village, wondering where they would find the stamina to withstand this new ordeal.

As usual, it was Shmuelik who cheered them.

“Why the long faces?” he asked. “At least our houses still have four walls. Didn’t our ancestors live in simple huts and booths when they were brought out of Egypt? God looked after them then, and He will look after us now.”

“It didn’t rain in the wilderness,” Reb Guttmacher noted.

“And the Clouds of Glory hovered over their heads to shelter them by day and by night,” Reb Lazer added.

“I suggest we postpone this Biblical discussion and begin rebuilding the roofs,” Tevye said. “If we can’t use lumber, than we’ll use branches instead. Shmuelik is right about one thing. Complaining won’t keep us dry.”

And so, the work began collecting branches, broken pieces of lumber, and anything else that could provide them with temporary shelter. Elisha’s son, Ariel, rode off to Zichron Yaacov to dispatch an emergency message to the JCA offices in Paris. It was obvious to Tevye and the rest of his friends that in addition to making life miserable for the Jews, Jamal Pasha was hoping to he paid off by the Baron. In the meantime, rain started to fall.

At first, the rain began as a trickle, but soon, ominous clouds appeared in the distance, making their way inland from the sea. Before they were able to repair their houses, the deluge began. Nachman immediately ran to rescue the Sefer Torah. Clutching the sacred scroll in his arms, he raced for the toolshed. The sky echoed with thunder. Not since the great Flood had rain poured down with such fury. While the men continued to work, the women and children ran for shelter in the stable and barns, the only stuctures that had viable roofs. Here, on the Morasha hillside, the story of Noah’s ark was being relived. People and beasts crowded together to weather out the storm. Women and young children sat down on the earth with the sheep and the goats; the older children squeezed into the coops housing the chickens; and the men collapsed in exhaustion onto the straw in the stalls of the barns. Just months after his wedding, Tevye was back with his cow.

All night long, rain thundered down on the roofs of the barns, which the Turks called “chans.” Who knew what test God had in store for them? Normally, Hillel would have tried to cheer everyone up with a song, but his accordion had been soaked in the first angry downpour and his arm still ached from his wound. One-handed, he held his harmonica to his lips and played a soulful tune. Even the ever-optimistic Nachman was too exhausted to speak. He had worked with all his might to save whatever he could in the house, dragging their furniture, bedding, and clothes into a shed, and now his muscles cried out for sleep. Soon, all that could be heard from the men’s barn was a chorus of snoring and coughing, and an occasional moo. Tevye remembered to leave the door open a crack to make sure the air didn’t stagnate. If the germs which had killed the two cows were still on the loose in the stables, Tevye didn’t dare think what would become of his family and friends.

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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