When they arrived back at the house, the children ran into the bedroom and slammed the door shut in their grandfather’s face. He had to sit down and rest. His pounding heart told him that Tzeitl was right. The children needed a young father and mother, not an old, weary mule like their grandfather. He heard their sobs from the other side of the door, but didn’t have the courage to face them, so he waited outside on the porch until Ruchel came home.
“Thank God,” she said when he told her that the children were safe in the house.
“I think Nachman is right,” Tevye said. “It is better if I leave right away. In a few days the children will get over the change. It may be hard for them to understand now, but one day they will realize that everything God does is for the best. After all, He is the Master of the World, not us.”
“Sometimes, it is hard for me to understand everything He does,” Ruchel confided.
Ever since her father had arrived, neither of them had mentioned the pregnancy which had not come to fruition. If Tevye could see an unspoken sadness in his daughter’s eyes, neither of them wanted to bring the matter up now.
“Whether we understand or not, we have to believe,” Tevye said. “That’s what faith is about.”
He bent down and kissed his daughter’s forehead. Wanting to feel more of his love, she gave him a hug.
“Oh, Abba, I’ve missed you so much,” she said.
“I have missed you also, my daughter. As the Sages teach, ‘More than the baby calf wants to suck, the mother cow wants to give milk.’”
Tevye climbed up into his wagon. Once again, he headed for the gate of the colony. Ruchel stood watching as the wagon rolled over the dirt road leading away from the house. To her surprise, Moishe and Hannie raced by her, running after the wagon.
“Saba!” they yelled. “Zeide! Don’t leave us!”
Ruchel ran after the children. Returning from the swamps, Nachman saw his wife scampering away from the house. Goliath, on his way back from the fields, saw Nachman race off after Ruchel. He too joined in the chase. Outside the settlement gate, Tevye heard the calls of the children behind him. Tugging on the reins of the wagon, he ordered his horse to once again halt on the road.
“Take us with you,” Moishe pleaded, latching on to the wagon. “We want to come with you. We don’t want to grow up with anyone else.”
They climbed into the wagon and hugged him, unwilling to let go. Puffing, Ruchel caught up to her father. Nachman ran up beside her. Within moments, Goliath arrived on the scene. The picture told the story. Moishe and Hannie refused to let go of their grandfather. Sobbing, they snuggled under his arms like terrified ducklings. Tevye glanced at his daughter with a shrug.
“What can I do?” his expression seemed to say.
Ruchel looked at her husband. Though they had only been married a very short time, they could read each other’s thoughts. It was a question they had debated dozens of times. To stay in Rishon where Nachman was happy with his teaching, or to join up with the rest of the family? For Ruchel, the decision rested with Nachman. True, she wanted to be with her father and sisters, and she wanted with all of her heart to raise Tzeitl’s children, but not if it went against the will of her husband. As her father would say, “Wasn’t it written, ‘And thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee’?”
Nachman took her aside.
“The children want to be with their grandfather,” he said to his wife.
“Yes,” Ruchel answered.
“It seems to be what they need. They’ve suffered enough loss in their lifetimes. First a father, then a mother, and now their grandfather too? It could shatter their faith in the Almighty completely.”
“What should we do?” Ruchel asked.
“We should go with them,” Nachman answered. “Just like we decided before we received the Baron’s letter. That way we can raise the children like Tzeitl wanted, and they can be near their grandfather too.”
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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