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September 3, 2015 / 19 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.

“Isn’t that like stealing?” Hodel asked.

“Certainly not,” her father answered. “You are the child’s mother.”

“It just doesn’t seem right not telling Perchik. Maybe if he sees that I am serious, his feelings will change.”

“He doesn’t have feelings. Only slogans and high-winded theories.”

“Maybe if you spoke to him,” Hodel said.

“What for?”

“Maybe you can persuade him.”

“Will he agree to keep the Sabbath?” Tevye asked.

“No,” his daughter admitted. “I don’t think so.”

“Will he send the boy to learn Torah?”

“Probably not.”

“Will he teach him how to put on tefillin?”

“You know he doesn’t believe in those things. But it isn’t his fault. No one taught him when he was a child.”

“That doesn’t mean that his ignorance has to be passed down to your son. Do you want the boy to grow up as if he belongs to a nation which has no tradition or past?”

“Of course not.”

“Then this is the only way,” Tevye said. “If he loves you so much that he can’t be without you, then he’ll know where to find you. But if you raise up your son amongst pig eaters, then he will become a chazzer fresser too.”

At first, Tevye’s strategy worked according to plan. Reaching the road to Shoshana in the evening, they camped along the roadside in order to get an early start in the morning. When the sun had risen over the mountains, they continued on to the kibbutz. In the distance, they could see workers at labor in the fields. While Tevye kept guard outside of the empty house, Hodel quickly packed her things into a suitcase. At the nursery, she kept the conversation short by explaining that she wanted to show her baby to her father, who was waiting outside. They were all in the wagon making their escape back toward the road, when Perchik came galloping up on a horse.

“Greetings,” he said with a smile. “And a hearty mazal tov to the groom! When I heard you were here, I came rushing. But where are you off to in such a big hurry?”

Hodel didn’t answer. Her face had turned white. She looked at her husband and clutched the bundled child in her arms. Immediately from her expression, Perchik understood.

“I am taking my daughter and my grandson away from here,” Tevye declared.

“Is that so?” Perchik asked. “And who the hell are you?”

“The fool who brought a godless knave into his house to steal away his daughter.”

“So now you are stealing her back?”

“When the great Rabbi Hillel once saw a dead man floating on a river, he called, ‘Just as you have drowned others, now someone has drowned you.’”

“Don’t quote to me your foolish sayings, old man,” Perchik said. He reached down and pulled his rifle out of its sheath.

“Perchik!” Hodel screamed.

“You shut up” he answered.

“Don’t blame my father. I want to go with him,” she said.

“He’s brainwashed you with all of his mumbo-jumbo.”

“He hasn’t brainwashed me at all. What normal mother doesn’t want to bring up her child herself?”

“That’s bourgeois sentimentality,” he said. “Women have to be free to work in the fields.”

“A Jewish woman belongs in the home,” Tevye said.

“The Dark Ages are over, old man.”

“Get out of our way,” Tevye threatened.

“Hodel, get down from the wagon,” Perchik ordered.

“Not unless you agree to raise up the boy the way I want him to be raised.”

“He will be raised like every other child in this kibbutz, in the way which will most benefit the collective.”

“I don’t care about your collective!” Hodel yelled. “I am a person with feelings, not some kind of new farming machine.”

“Then you can go with your father. But the boy stays here with me.”

Husband and wife stared at each other with eyes flashing fire.

“Never,” Hodel said. “The boy comes with me.”

Trembling, Perchik pulled back the hammer on the rifle.

“Are you as brave without a gun in your hand?” Tevye asked.

Perchik was shaking. Carefully, he set the hammer of the rifle back into place and set it back in its sheath. Then he swung down from his horse.

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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