He bent down and placed a small stone on her grave, a sign that someone had visited.
“Oy, Golda, my Golda,” he groaned. “Forgive me for bothering you in the middle of the night, but the whole world has turned upside down. Your Tevye does not know whether he is coming or going. Sometimes, I say to myself, Tevye, enough. You’ve been punished enough. Give some other milkman a chance to be chosen. It’s time to join your wife, Golda. But, of course, you are right – who will look after our children?”
Tevye heard footsteps. In a graveyard, in the middle of the night, who could it be? From a distance he wasn’t certain, but as the figure came closer, the bearded face became clear. It was Hershel, the sandal maker, with a shovel in his hand.
“Greetings, RebYid,” he called to the milkman. “May the Mashiach come soon so that we may be finished with grave yards.”
“Amen,” Tevye answered.
“You also could not sleep?” the little Jew asked. Not that the sandal maker was short of stature, but his back was bent over from a lifetime of hammering heels.
As was his custom, whenever he could, Tevye answered with a verse of Scripture. “Like it is written, `And Achashverus, the King, could not sleep,’ may his name be erased. But tell me, my friend, why are you carrying that shovel? Has somebody died, God forbid?”
“Millions of people have died, but, thank God, not anyone I know of today,” came the philosopher’s reply.
“Nu?” Tevye asked, “Why are you here?”
“What do I look like to you, some kind of animal that I would leave my beloved Shendel behind? Who knows what the Russians will make out of her bones? Perhaps a church will be built here, or a pub for their drinking.”
Tevye had not thought of that possibility. What about his Golda? Did he love her less than the sandal maker loved his wife? Perish the notion.
“Where’s your shovel?” Hershel asked.
For a change, Tevye was speechless.
“No matter,” Hershel said. “There should be another one in the undertaker’s shed. You help me, and I’ll help you. That way the work will go faster.”
“You plan to take her with you?” Tevye asked.
“That’s right,” the sandal maker answered. “Don’t you?”
“Well….” Tevye stuttered.
“After all, our wives are already crated. All we have to do is load them on our wagons.”
“Where are you going, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“Wherever God takes me. Is it a problem for the King who created the world to find another six feet of earth for my Shendel? Besides, haven’t our Sages told us, `Change of residence, change of luck?’ Maybe our mazel will improve. Take my shovel. I’ll find another in the undertaker’s shed. And hurry. The faster we work, the less we wake up the dead.”