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Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Twenty: Zichron Ya’acov


Cover of Tevye in the Promised Land by Tzvi Fishman.

The thought of being united with his Ruchel boosted Tevye’s spirits. It seemed like his fortune might be taking a turn for the better. Who could tell? The Almighty worked in mysterious fashions. One day, He could snap a man’s back like a twig, and the next day raise him up to sit at a table with kings. With a little mazel, things would work out for the best. Bat Sheva would marry Shmuelik. Hava would forget about Hevedke. Perchik would recognize his misguided path and become a penitent baal tshuva. Ruchel and Nachman would join them in building a new settlement. The Mashiach would come, and Golda, Tzeitl, Shprintza, Motel, and even Ben Zion would all arise from the dead.

Two weeks later, Tevye received a second letter from Ruchel. She had lost her pregnancy. The very same night in a dream, Tzeitl had appeared to her saying that Moishe and Hannie were waiting. Nachman had told her to go back to sleep. But an hour later, Tzeitl had returned with the very same message. “A dream which is repeated is true,” Nachman said. The next morning, they had written a letter to the Baron Rothschild himself. If the Jewish Colony Association was truly Jewish, how could it turn its back on the mitzvah of caring for orphans? They would wait for the Baron’s answer, Ruchel said, and if it were negative, then Tevye should plan to come to pick them up in his wagon.

Since he was writing a letter to Ruchel, Tevye decided to send a letter to his daughter, Baylke, in America. He did not know where she was, but his wife, Golda, may her memory be for a blessing, had a cousin in Chicago. Tevye had saved his address between the pages of his battered and yellowing Psalm book.

“Who knows?” Golda had said in her pragmatic manner. “Maybe you will need his address one day. We were never the closest of cousins, but family is family.”

When Baylke set off for New York with her good-for-nothing husband, Tevye had given her the Chicago address and told her to write to their cousin to let him know where she was living. Not that his beautiful, headstrong daughter ever took his advice, but in a strange land like America, she might long for some family to remind her of home. Reb Heshie Mendel was his name, cousin of the same Menachem Mendel who had swindled Tevye out of the only savings he had ever managed to amass in his life. Tevye sent him a note, asking him to please forward the letter to Baylke if he knew where she was. Before sealing the envelope, he stuck a few blades of grass inside with the prayer that the blessing and holiness of Eretz Yisrael would bring good fortune into her life.

The new Hasidic colony was to be named Morasha, which meant inheritance in Hebrew. Two things in the Bible were called Morasha – the Torah, and the Land of Israel. These two foundations went hand in hand, as it said, “Therefore you shall keep all of the commandments which I command you this day, that you may be strong, and go in and possess the Land which I give you as a Morasha, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Apparently, bureaucratic problems in Constantinople were holding up the purchase of the land which the JCA had offered to buy from the Turkish government. While many kibbutzim had been started in deserted regions by buying tracts of land from Arabs whose claims of ownership were based on the principle of squatters’ rights, the Baron was meticulous in acquiring legal permission through all of the authorized channels. In the meantime, the small group of fifteen Chabad Hasidim met every week to draw up plans for the colony. They had been sent to Eretz Yisrael by their Rebbe to join in the great mitzvah of settling the Land.

One morning, Tevye joined the band of bearded Jews on a reconnoitering mission to the site, a half-day journey southeast of Zichron Yaacov. The land which the Company had chosen lay along the ridge of a mountain which rose over the coastal plain. When they reached the area, broad, rolling vistas stretched out before them, making their dreams of establishing a new colony a reality. Tevye fell to his knees and scooped up a handful of earth. Hillel opened a bottle of wine. Everyone drank a happy L’Chaim. Only Goliath sensed that something was missing. Among the novice settlers, he was the only Jew who had earned his livelihood outdoors in the wilds. Tevye was a milkman. Hillel, a musician. Shmuelik, a scholar. Reb Lazer, a tailor. Munsho, a blacksmith. Reb Shilo, a carpenter. Pincus, a storekeeper. Reb Shraga, a scribe. Yankele was a butcher and a mohel. And Chaim Lev, the Galitzianer from Poland, who had joined the group of Hasids, was a handyman and fixer. Only the big lumberjack knew how to read the layout of the land, and the first thing he noticed, or rather didn’t notice, was water. Standing on a knoll overlooking the imaginary orchards before them, he noticed that there wasn’t a brook in sight.

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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Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/the-book-shelf/tevye-in-the-promised-land-books/tevye-in-the-promised-land-chapter-twenty-zichron-yaacov/2012/11/16/

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