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August 31, 2015 / 16 Elul, 5775
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Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Twenty-Seven: Hodel Leaves Perchik

Overnight, Tevye's new cottage became a warm, haimisher home...
Cover of Tevye in the Promised Land by Tzvi Fishman.

Not until Tevye was driving her back to Shoshana in his wagon did he remember that in addition to being a newlywed husband, he was still a father too. Suddenly, as they were riding along the bumpy road to the north, Hodel broke down like a baby and cried. The reason that Perchik hadn’t come to the wedding was not only because of the fast-approaching winter, and the work which had to be done, but because of their terrible fights.

Tevye tugged on the reins of his horse and brought the wagon to a halt. Weeping, his daughter fell into his arms. Ever since the family’s visit and Tzeitl’s untimely death, her relationship with her husband had soured. Hodel decided that she wanted their house to have a more Jewish feeling. When her baby was born, and she had started to think of his future, her conviction had become more and more vocal. In reaction, her husband had turned into a monster. Judaism, he claimed, was a primitive relic which had to be buried if the Jews of today wanted to build a modern socialist state. The obsession with family, Perchik said, had to be replaced by a selfless devotion to the kibbutz. Their child was to be raised, not at home by his mother and father, but in the children’s nursery. Perchik even wanted to pass a law in the kibbutz forbidding husbands and wives from living together. Married life, he claimed, was “erotic selfishness.” To him, a home was “a petty bourgeois cell.” A child was not private property, but a “commodity of the collective.” Somehow, Hodel managed to live with his gibberish, but when he took the child out of her arms and carried him out of the door to the nursery, she realized she had married a golem without any feelings. Hodel had been so enraged, she refused to let her husband back in the house. Either he came back with the baby, or not come back at all. Once again, to Tevye’s chagrin, his daughter broke down and wept. Their argument had even come to blows.

“He struck you?” Tevye asked.

Hodel’s weeping answered his question.

“If he learns that I’ve told you, he will kill me,” she cried.

“So the pacifist is really a wife beater,” Tevye said, feeling his blood boil.

“I don’t want to live in Shoshana,” Hodel confessed. “I want to be with my family.”

“You will, my princess, you will,” Tevye assured her. “We’ll go and get the child, and you will never have to see your heretic husband again.”

“Oh, Abba,” Hodel said. “Forgive me for spoiling the joy of your marriage.”

“Nonsense,” said Tevye. “The hoopla is finished and life must go on. How much joy can a poor man withstand? Isn’t it written, ‘In pain you shall give birth to your children? You are my child, are you not? Does a man turn his back on his family? Before anything else I am your father. And I want my grandson to be raised as a Jew.”

“I’m sorry, Abba,” Hodel wept. “If I had listened to you years ago, this would never have happened.”

“Cursed be the day that I brought that free thinker into my house,” Tevye said. “But what man today is a prophet? By falling down, a child learns to walk. This too will turn out for the best. As Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Fret not for God has brought all of this to pass.’ Wasn’t it your good-for-nothing husband who brought you to Israel? If you hadn’t come first, we never would have followed. So you see, good things can come out of bad.”

During the long journey, they had plenty of time to plan how to kidnap the child. They decided that the best time to arrive was in the morning, just after Perchik left for the fields. While Hodel favored giving her husband one last chance to reconsider the consequences of his stubbornness, Tevye was afraid that Perchik might sweet-talk his daughter into staying, and even swear to mend his ways. To Tevye, it was better to sneak into Shoshana after Perchik had gone off to work, pack Hodel’s belongings, take the baby, and head back to Morasha before the scoundrel found out. A divorce could be arranged later. The important thing at the moment was to rescue the child.

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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