Latest update: June 26th, 2012
Tevye took the shovel and started to dig. The earth was hard from the winter, but after breaking through the frozen topsoil, the ground became looser below. Whoever would have dreamed of Tevye digging up his Golda, may her soul rest in peace?
“Forgive me, my queen,” he beseeched, “Our good friend, Reb Hershel, is right. Who can tell what our friends, the Russians, might build here? How would you feel with a beer hall over your head? As it says about Laban, `And Jacob beheld the face of Laban, and behold, it was not the same towards him as before.'”
Tevye dug with all of his strength. The exhausting work helped take his mind off of his problems. Soon he reached Golda’s coffin. Lovingly now, he scraped the dirt away from the wood. Then he began to dig a wide pit so he could get in the grave to lift the heavy crate out. He wasn’t quite sure what he would do with her, but he was certain that Hashem, the Almighty, would help out. Wasn’t it a mitzvah to prevent the desecration of the dead? And when a Jew does a good deed, the Almighty always stands ready to help.
After an hour, Tevye was finished. A short distance away, Hershel continued to stab at the earth. Tevye called him to come over. Hunchbacked, he climbed into the grave to help lift Golda’s coffin. Bracing his feet in the dirt, Tevye gave a push and the box slid out of the pit. Then Tevye helped the sandal maker rescue his Shendel. After catching their breaths, they agreed that Hershel would stand guard in the cemetery while Tevye fetched his wagon. Before the morning sun had risen over the village, Tevye had picked up his precious cargo and driven it back to his barn. To make the crate seem like any other piece they were taking, he spread a large blanket over its sides to disguise its distinctly rectangular shape.
“Don’t you go anywhere, my Golda,” he said, patting his secret treasure. “Before you know it, we will be on our way.”
Outside the barn, the sun was beginning to shine in the treetops. Tevye hurried to the house to see if his Hava had truly come home. She lay sleeping with Tzeitl’s children, her blanket characteristically thrown at her feet. Tenderly, Tevye pulled the patchwork quilt up to her chin, just as he had done when she was a girl. Then, letting all of his angels sleep a little longer, he went off to the synagogue to say his morning prayers.
All of that day, Tevye ran around in circles like a slaughtered, headless chicken, selling the belongings they were leaving behind. It was no easy task to squeeze a whole lifetime into a wagon. The girls worked all day in the house. By the following morning, the packing was finished. Tevye took down the mezuzahs from the doorposts of his house, hoisted their last crates of memories onto his wagon, fastened the heap with a rope, and climbed aboard alongside Tzeitl and the children. Hava, Bat Sheva, and Ruchel sat in the rear with their mother’s coffin. Where were they going? Only God knew. Once again, the wandering Jews were heading off to an unknown destination.
Tevye coaxed his horse into the procession of wagons. On the third day of the decree of expulsion, the caravan set off, leaving the village of Anatevka behind. Other Jews had sold their wagons and horses and were beginning the exodus on foot. Villagers bent over, carrying heavy satchels and bundles on their backs. Expressions were downcast and grim except for Tevye’s smile. On that blackest of days, Tevye at least had the solace that his long-lost daughter, Hava, and his cherished Golda were traveling with him. As the great Rabbi Nachman had taught, it was a mitzvah to always be happy, in good times and bad. So to cheer up his family and friends, Tevye put on a smile and looked bravely out toward the future.
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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