web analytics
October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘tevye in the promised land’

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Thirty-Nine: Winds of War

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Word arrived that boatloads of new Jewish immigrants from Russia were arriving in Jaffa. Rumors spread that a wave of bloody pogroms were causing thousands of Jews to flee from their homes. Every settler was anxious to learn which villages had been attacked. Everyone had friends and relatives in Russia, and, of course, all of the settlers were worried about their fate. Not only was the Czar’s empire in turmoil, all of Europe was quaking in the throes of a cataclysmic war. As if overnight, enlightened, “civilized” Germany had become a raging, bloodthirsty beast. At least for the moment, the remote Turkish province of Palestine was far away from the conflict.

More often than not, the Turkish authorities refused to grant permission to allow the boatloads of immigrants to disembark. Many Jews had to sail back to Russia or Italy. Others journeyed on to Egypt. The fortunate and the brave either swam, or were secretly ferried ashore along the desolate Mediterranean coastline. Among the Jews who received legal papers, and among those who didn’t, a trickle found their way to Olat HaShachar.

With all of the building on the settlement, and with the success of their first two harvests, a decision had to be made. To keep up with the rate of development and expansion, more workers were needed. If the pioneers of Olat HaShachar truly wanted to conquer the land, they first had to conquer the workload. Presently there were not enough hands. Acres and acres of farmable land lay untouched. Sand dunes waited to be leveled and turned into vineyards. Barren wasteland waited to be transformed into pastures. The possibilities for growth were endless, but many more workers were needed.

One afternoon, a group of thirty young Jews marched into the colony. None had beards, and many didn’t even wear caps. Their backpacks were filled with apples, bread, blankets, and coconut oil, which some used for cooking and others for protecting their skin in the sun. They were led by a distinguished gentleman named Dr. Arthur Ruppin. He explained that the new immigrants had all joined his workers’ union, which he fittingly called “The Workers of Zion.” The goal of the movement was to unite all of the Jewish labor in Palestine, secure favorable terms for the workers, and thus make the Jews of the land independent, without having to depend on Arab labor to survive. Ruppin told Shimon, Tevye, Elisha, and a crowd of curious settlers, that the worker’s union was willing to hire out the laborers to the colony for minimal wages and board.

While the veteran pioneers gathered around the new immigrants to learn what was happening in Russia, Shimon took Tevye and a small group of other settlement leaders aside.

“This is a godsend,” Shimon said. “We’ve been desperate for workers for months.”

“Now we can get rid of the Arabs we hired to work in the fields,” Elisha added.

“Hiring these Jews will surely cost us much more,” Baruch said. He was Shimon’s right-hand man, in charge of the administration of the colony.

“Not according to this Ruppin,” Shimon answered.

“It’s too good to be true,” Tevye said.

The others all turned to him.

“What do you mean?” Shimon said.

“I thank the good Lord for every Jew who steps foot in the Land of Israel. But, I am sorry to say, I don’t see any rabbis among them.”

“Tevye’s right,” Sharagi agreed. “Do we want so many free-thinkers living in Olat HaShachar? They nearly outnumber us.”

“They will only be hired workers,” Shimon answered. “They won’t have a say in how we run the yishuv, nor a vote in our general assemblies.”

“Even if they don’t have a vote, their presence is sure to be a dangerous influence,” Tevye said. “I’ve raised seven daughters, and I know the pitfalls of exposing young minds to their godless ideas. Thank the good Lord, all of my daughters are married, but there are others who could be courting disaster.”

The others were momentarily silent. Elisha realized the reality of the problem. He still had three unmarried daughters and half a minyan of young, impressionable sons. Everyone turned toward Nachman.

“First we have to look at the new arrivals as our beloved Jewish brothers,” he said. “Their desire to join us in rebuilding our land is a wonderful thing. By being here, they will be exposed to the treasures of Judaism and the beauty of the Torah. As the great Sage, Hillel, taught us – we should be like the disciples of Aharon, loving our brethren and bringing them closer to Torah. At the same time, we have to be careful to put a guarding fence around our sacred beliefs, as Reb Tevye has rightly observed.”

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Thirty-Eight: A Love Song for Hodel

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Months passed. Yankele and his family boarded a freighter and headed back to Russia. Guttmacher’s brother either never received, or didn’t bother to answer the letter Tevye had written to him, so Guttmacher’s two orphaned children became permanent fixtures in Tevye’s home. Another addition to the family also arrived. Ruchel and Nachman had a baby – a princess of a girl whom they named Sarah Tzeitl.

Buildings continued to sprout up in the Olat HaShachar colony. The dry beds of the swamp land were plowed. Crops were planted, wheat, barley, maize, and rye. Looking out from the hilltop synagogue, fields and vegetable gardens decorated the landscape like a colorful patchwork quilt. Wagon loads of water melons, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, cabbage, beets, and onions were shipped off to the Jaffa market. Citrus trees were planted, but the religious law of orlah, one of the agricultural laws which God had commanded the Jews to obey in the Holy Land, forbade the settlers from eating the fruit for the first three years of its growth. Laws requiring that gleanings and the corner of fields be left for the poor were also strictly observed, as well as the rules governing mixed plantings and tithes. Nachman, who had spent several days in Jaffa studying the agricultural laws with Rabbi Kook, was appointed to oversee their enforcement on the yishuv.

As if it were another law of the land, Arab marauders made periodic raids on the colony, stealing whatever they could lift or uproot. When two bulls were stolen, the settlers began chaining the legs of their livestock at night, but the measure didn’t foil the Arabs. Instead of leading the bulls away, they chopped them up with machetes and hauled them away in pieces. Once again, the Jews complained to the local Turkish officials, but nothing was done to apprehend the offenders. Past experience had taught Tevye that only a decisive response by the Jews would discourage the Arabs from further encroachments. His motion to organize an ambush was accepted. For a week, the Jews hid at night in the small forest of eucalyptus trees which had been planted to dry up the swamp. On the sixth night, a group of armed Arabs snuck out of the sand dunes bordering the colony. Silently, they darted through the darkness toward the barn. With a roar, Tevye rose to his feet and charged forward. Like a platoon following its commander, the other Jews raced out from their hiding places. Their shouts startled the Arabs. Only four of the settlers had rifles, but the roar of their gunfire terrified the thieves. Dropping their weapons, they ran to their horses and fled. Though none of the marauders had been wounded, the Arabs learned a lesson. Half a year passed without a further incident of trespassing or theft.

For the time being, life was a pleasure. A long stretch of spectacular weather arrived. Work progressed in leaps and bounds. At the end of the day, Tevye collapsed into bed in happy exhaustion. He felt that his sins, as well as the sins of the land, had been granted atonement. New life sprouted up everywhere. In his heart, in his house, and in the once desolate fields. Like the fruit of the sabra cactus which grew wild in the hills, the land was thorny and hard on the outside, but sweet and juicy within. As if overnight, wherever the eye looked, instead of swamp and sand, blossoming gardens and orchards covered the landscape.

“Blee ayin hara,” his wife Cannel said.

Anytime Tevye would praise their good fortune, his wife would whisper, “Blee ayin hara,” hoping that the evil eye would not cast its glance on them. It was an expression she had learned from her father. In this world, a man could never be certain what lay ahead. He could never take credit for his achievement and success, believing that his own wisdom and strength had brought him his good fortune. Everything was a blessing from God, and a man had to keep his head humbly bowed and always give thanks to his Maker.

At least for the moment, Tevye’s heart was at peace. As the Rabbis said, why should a man look out for a storm on a clear, sunny day? Or maybe Tevye had said that. Sometimes he couldn’t remember which words of wisdom the Rabbis had written, and which expressions he had coined on his own. Be that as it may, the only small worry that Tevye had was his unmarried daughter.

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Thirty-Seven: A Son at Last!

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

“I think it’s coming,” Carmel said. Tevye opened his eyes. As far as he could tell, it was the middle of the night.

“What’s coming?” he sleepily asked.

“The baby.”

“Go back to sleep,” he said, rolling over onto his side. Tevye was no great scholar, but he was knowledgeable about two things in life — cows and babies. After all, he had fathered seven daughters. And with Golda, it was always the same hysterical false alarms until the real moment arrived. Tevye knew from experience that the birth of the baby could he hours away. Even days.

“Tevye. . .Tevye,” Carmel called in the dark.

Tevye grumbled. The next moment he was snoring.

“Tevye,” Carmel called urgently, poking her husband in the back. “Are you ready to be the midwife?”

Tevye stirred and sat up in bed.

“Midwife? What midwife?”

“I need a midwife, Tevye. I’m having the baby.”

“You’re having the baby?” Tevye asked, still groggy from sleep. He reached over to the table, found the matches, and lit a candle. On the other side of the tent, Guttmacher’s two children were sleeping. Carmel’s eyes were wide with a mixture of fear and wonder. Her forehead was sweating.

“You have contractions?” he asked.

She shook her head yes.

“For how long?”

“For hours,” she said, biting her lip as another painful contraction seized a hold of her hips.

“Why didn’t you wake me?” he asked.

“I tried to. Three times.”

Tevye attempted to think clearly. If that were the case, his wife was liable to give birth to the baby right then and there in his lap. Wasn’t it written that the Hebrew women in Egypt gave birth in a lively fashion before the midwives would arrive? Maybe his Yemenite wife was like them. He stood up and thought about what he should do. In Anatevka, he would go and get Shendel, the midwife. But who knew where Shendel was now?

“Whom should I call?” he asked his wife as he hurriedly pulled on his trousers.

“My mother,” she answered.

“Your mother is a midwife?”

“All Yemenite women are midwives.”

“All of them?”

“Well, maybe not all of them, but most of them. Will you please hurry and call her before the baby comes out!”

“My shoes,” he said. “Where are my shoes?”

“Outside the tent,” his wife answered. Her back arched in pain and she let out a long anguished sigh. She clutched the bed with both hands and whimpered. Sweat shone on her forehead.

“Hurry!” she whispered. “But first check your shoes for scorpions.”

“What a saint,” Tevye thought. His wife worried about him, even when she was in the middle of labor. Quickly, Tevye hurried out of the tent. He didn’t bother to put on his shoes. He ran straight to the tent of Elisha.

To make a long story short, as the great writer, Sholom Aleicheim, would say, Carmel gave birth to a boy! When the moaning and groaning were over, Tevye had been blessed with a son! After seven daughters, a male child was born to Tevye, the son of Schneur Zalman! In the middle of the night, the whole settlement turned out to wish the proud father mazal tovs and L’chaims! While Carmel embraced her precious baby in the tent, Tevye danced outside. Everyone shared his great joy. Hillel was so happy, he played his accordion, stamped his feet, and blew into his harmonica, all at the very same time. Liquor and refreshments arrived as if by magic. Everyone joined in the party.

In the middle of the dancing, Tevye felt he had to make sure that this happiness wasn’t a dream. He simply couldn’t believe his good fortune. After so much hardship and sorrow, how could there be such great joy? He hurried to his tent and demanded to see the baby. The crowd of women made way. Pushing the cloth diaper aside, the father took a glimpse to be certain. There was no doubt about it. The good Lord had blessed Tevye with a boy! Holding his newborn son triumphantly up in one hand like a freshly baked loaf of challah, Tevye carried the bundle toward the door of the tent.

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Thirty-Six: Tevye the Builder

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

As weeks passed, Tevye felt more and more invincible. An inner transformation was taking place which he himself couldn’t explain, as if a new soul had entered his body. He felt like he was not only Tevye, but someonc much greater, as if the spirits of Goliath and Shmuelik, Bat Sheva and Golda, Tzeitl and Guttmacher, along with the heroes of history, had all become a part of his being. The strength of generations impelled him forward in his tasks. He was tireless in his labor. In addition to draining the swamps, he dug ditches throughout the night. When a wave of hot desert winds made work in the swamps too dangerous, he plowed fields and planted, sawed wooden planks and hammered the foundations of buildings. Unable to sleep more than a few hours a night, he did double shifts of guard duty, chased away snooping Arabs, and greeted the sunrise, wrapped in tallit and teffilin. Instead of mourning, he worked and he built. On the Sabbath, he rested, just as God had commanded. But come Motzei Shabbos, with the appearance of the first three stars in the sky, Tevye rushed back to his labor.

Busy with the endless work on the settlement, Tevye fought off moments of doubt and philosophical reflections. He knew that thinking too much could get a man into trouble. Why the Almighty did what He did was something no human could grasp. Nothing could be gained by complaining. It was God’s world to run things the way He saw fit. It was a mortal man’s duty to accept his fate in contentment and song. As Nachman always reminded them, that was man’s task and trial on earth, to trust in the Lord, in good times and bad, whether we understood God’s mysteries or not.

Which isn’t to say that Tevye turned into a saint. Many times he was angry. And often, there was more fury than joy in his work. And he was still wont to turn a questioning eye up to Heaven, and occasionally, even to sneer. But, for the most part, he kept his lips sealed. If anything, he shared a private battle with God. Like a boxer dizzy with blows, he was determined not to fall down. And if he fell down, he was determined to get back on his feet. He wouldn’t be beaten. His faith wouldn’t die. His body could ache and become food for mosquitoes, but his soul couldn’t be touched by a swamp. Where once he had been cautious, now he didn’t feel any fear. Tevye wasn’t worried about meeting the Angel of Death. “Come and take me!” he roared.

Like the Jewish People, he would live on forever. Tevye’s revenge was his work. He became an example for everyone. Summer arrived, bringing along hot, sandy winds from the desert. There were days a man couldn’t open his eyes without being blinded. While the settlers sought shelter in their tents, Tevye stood in the swamp, his eyes tightly closed, scooping buckets of water out of the swamp. The heat was scorching. There were no cool drinks to quench the nagging thirst, no ice, no shade, no air to breath in the oppressively humid lowlands. Even the ocean was warm. And nights were so still, no relief from the merciless desert sharav could be found, even by sleeping outside of their airless tents.

Still, work in the swamp continued. If not by the settlers, by the fiery rays of the sun. As if the Lord was pitching in some help of His own, the swamps began to evaporate and dry. By late August, the canal to the sea approached completion. Only a pipe-length section remained. When that last piece was set into place, the remaining swamp water would be drained off into the ocean. Only one small obstacle stood in the way. The pipe had to be laid in the most dangerous part of the swamp, where the mosquitoes had built their main encampment. Whoever connected together the last two sections was sure to be eaten alive. Descending into the nest of mosquitoes meant almost certain death. A general meeting was called which everyone had to attend. Lots were to be drawn to determine the unlucky hero.

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter 15: Guardian of Israel

Friday, September 28th, 2012

As a sign of his grief over Tzeitl, Tevye tore his shirt and sat on a low stool in Hodel’s house in the traditional custom of mourners. He maintained a stalwart expression to disguise the hole he felt in his heart. His strength came from Golda. She appeared to him in a dream and told him not to worry.

“Don’t be so sad, my husband. Our Tzeitl is fine. She is back with her Motel, and she visits me all the time.”

When Bat Sheva blamed God for being unfair, Tevye reprimanded her for her bitterness. Who was man to complain, he asked her?  God was in Heaven, and they were on earth. A mortal had to accept the Almighty’s decrees in humility and believe that all of His doings were just.

The traditional period of shiva allowed a mourner to express his grief in the comforting presence of family and friends. All during the week, the pioneers of the kibbutz arrived at Hodel’s house to share their condolences with the family. Though none of the members of the kibbutz were religious, the men agreed to make up a prayer minyan so that Tevye could say the mourner’s Kaddish. Since they did not have prayerbooks for everyone, Shmuelik wrote out handwritten copies of the prayers. He also convinced the community that they should all have mezuzahs on their houses. It was decided that Ben Zion’s friend, Peter, would accompany Shmuelik to Tiberias, where he would buy kosher parchment. The quarantine in the city had ended, and Shmuelik was happy to find a thriving religious community in the ancient lakeside enclave. Throughout the rest of the week, the young scholar sat hunched over a table, quill in hand, carefully forming the letters of the Shema Yisrael prayer on the small clafs of parchment which he rolled up into the wooden mezuzah cases that Goliath whittled while watching the children. Though the kibbutzniks had made a religion of denying religion, they all willingly nailed the mezuzahs to their doorways as an expression of their Jewishness, in the same way that they all circumcised and bar-mitzvahed their sons.

Bolstered by his faith that man’s brief existence in this world was but a doorway to an eternal World to Come, and that Tzeitl was truly happy in Heaven, Tevye was able to enjoy the long and often heated discussions which filled Hodel’s house throughout the week. After all, as much as a Jew liked a good sour pickle, he savored a juicy debate. Most often, Perchik or Ben Zion represented the Zionist platform, while Tevye defended the sacred path of the Torah. The striking, white-bearded Gordon also had plenty to say. The philosopher and writer was the oldest member of the kibbutz, and the younger people, including Perchik and Ben Zion, showed him a great deal of respect. In a play on the life of Moses, Gordon would have been chosen to play the lead role. His high, balding forehead glowed red from his work in the sun, his eyes shone with intelligence, and his long, untrimmed beard gave him a prophet’s charisma. But, without a yarmulkah to cover his head, he looked more like a Jewish Tolstoy than the lawgiver of the Jews.

Surprisingly, the kibbutz women were as outspoken in their opinions as the men. In Tevye’s eyes, this breach of modesty was shocking. Ever since the time of Abraham and Sarah, the place of a Jewish woman was in the inner sanctums of the home. In the home itself, a woman could express her opinions from morning to night, but in public, when strange men were present, speaking out like a man was strictly taboo. The young, long-braided girl, Sonia, whom Ben Zion had danced with, was particularly loose with her tongue. Her free-thinking outbursts caused Shmuelik to redden with embarrassment and seek pretenses to withdraw from the room. The girl’s chutzpah particularly annoyed Bat Sheva. Tevye’s daughter would argue with her fiercely, even when she agreed with the things that Sonia was saying. Ben Zion greatly enjoyed their jousts, knowing they were meant to win his attention. Recalling Tevye’s warning in the snow-covered forest on the road to Odessa, the Zionist kept a respectable distance away from the milkman’s daughter, but now and again, he cast her passionate glances which made her believe he still cared.

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter 14: The Dybbuk

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Strangely, the person who seemed most affected by Tzeitl’s death was Goliath. Upon hearing the news, he surrounded himself with an impenetrable wall. He even found it hard to play with the children. Shmuelik said the body had to remain wrapped in a sheet on the floor of Hodel’s house until the Sabbath was over. During the Sabbath, mourning was forbidden, and Tevye did his best to remain strong. But come Motzei Shabbos, when the day ended, the children’s sobs at the funeral made everyone feel the very great weight of the loss. Little Moishe and Hannie clung to their grandfather as if he were father and mother in one. For their sake, Tevye kept his face locked in an optimistic expression. When the Mashiach came, he told them, their mother would return. With God’s help, they wouldn’t have long to wait. If they prayed hard enough, the Mashiach could come any day. All things considered, he reasoned, the situation of the dead was a lot better than that of the living. That is, if there were cows which had to be milked, and wagons which broke down in the World to Come, Tevye had never heard about it.

Tevye’s hope-filled posture paid off. After a few days, with the resilience of children, Moishe and Hannie ventured away from Tevye’s shadow to play outside with the youngsters of the kibbutz. Tevye and his daughters sat out the seven-day mourning period in Hodel and Perchik’s tiny, mud hut of a home. Goliath joined them as if he were a part of the family. He kept to a corner, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible, but owing to his size, he filled up a substantial part of the room. He was gladdened when the children mustered enough courage to venture outside on their own. It gave him an excuse to sit outside the house, where he could keep an eye on their activities. That way, he could keep out of the way, yet still be a part of the mourning.

Because her family had to eat in her home while they were sitting shiva, Hodel had to be more stringent in the kitchen. While she never mixed milk products and meat, she had become less mindful of some of the other kosher laws. Since she and Perchik normally ate in the dining hall with the other members of the kibbutz, she had to make use of the communal kitchen in preparing the meals for her family. Shmuelik boiled the utensils which needed to be purified, and he kashered the pans in a blazing fire. Perchik called the procedure a primitive voodoo, but he controlled his disapproval as long as Tevye was in the house. However, he warned that when the week of mourning concluded, the foolishness would stop.

“It may seem like foolishness to you,” Hodel answered. “But to me it is important.”

“Has your father been brainwashing you again?”

“Don’t you dare to speak out against my father,” she said in a temper.

Perchik stared at his gentle wife in surprise. She stood glaring at him in defiance, as if she were seeking a fight. Since Tzeitl’s death, something in Hodel had changed. As strange as it sounded, she felt that Tzeitl’s spirit had entered her body. Everyone knew that stories of dybbuks were true. Souls of the dead could enter a person on earth until they found rest. In Anatevka, the Rabbi had exorcised more than a few. After all, Hodel reasoned, God had not brought Tzeitl all of the way to Israel to die in her arms for no reason at all. It was enough that Tzeitl wanted her children to grow up with Ruchel and the young rabbi, Nachman, to make Hodel realize the shortcomings of her present lifestyle. She had experienced a sense of rejection in her sister’s last wish, a condemnation of the path she had chosen, but in her heart, she knew that her sister’s decision was sound. After all, what sort of Jewish tradition could Hodel pass on to the children if the basics of Torah observance, like kashrus, Shabbos, and prayer were not to be found in her house? Soon, she realized, she would be a mother herself, and she wanted to bequeath to the next generation the things which had been important to her. Not only the aroma of freshly baked challahs, but the reverence for religion which had filled her house in Anatevka with a blessing from one Sabbath to the next. After all, it was the faithfulness to tradition which made a people last. Who said that modern ideas were necessarily better than the beliefs of the past?

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter 13: Tzeitl’s Last Wish

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

“What are we going to eat?” Shmuelik asked Tevye as they changed into their Sabbath clothing.

Tevye did not understand the question. “What do you mean?” he asked.

Before Shmuelik could answer, Hillel spoke up in a bard’s satirical manner. “He means that though you may be overjoyed to be reunited with your daughter, the Lord has commanded the Jewish people to observe certain dietary laws like eating properly slaughtered meat. And while we have only been here a short time, I have not seen the likes of a God-fearing butcher.”

“So we won’t eat meat tonight,” Tevye responded. “There is no sin in that.”

“Not eat meat on Shabbos?” Hillel asked. “Even when my mother, God bless her, didn’t have a kopeck to buy a new pair of shoes for me or my brother, we still had meat on Shabbos.”

“That’s the way it goes,” Tevye answered. “The Almighty is in charge of the menu. Whatever He gives us is more than we deserve.”

“The meat is not the only problem,” Shmuelik observed. This is the Holy Land. There are laws of priestly dues and tithes. Before we can eat vegetables and fruits which Jews have grown in the Land, the proper portions must be set aside as commanded in the Torah.”

Tevye sighed. Whoever said it was easy to be a good Jew? Your thoughts had to be holy. Your deeds had to be holy. Your food had to be holy. Your day of rest had to be holy. Even your Land had special religious laws of its own which no one ever thought about in Russia.

“This is one of the reasons why Moses begged the Almighty to let him enter Eretz Yisrael” Shmuelik informed them. “So he could fulfill the mitzvos which we can only perform in the Holy Land.”

“If it was important to Moses, our teacher, than it certainly is important to us,” Tevye agreed. “But how does one take these tithes?”

Because sundown was almost upon them, and a detailed explanation would take much too long, Shmuelik volunteered to hurry to the kitchen to prepare the food as required. Dressed in his Sabbath finery, he ran off across the kibbutz grounds in search of the dining hall. Kibbutzniks pointed the way, their eyes wide with wonder as they stared at the ultra-Orthodox Jew in his white stockings and knickers. Embarrassed, he tapped on the kitchen doorway, noticing that it lacked a mezuzah. The young women inside stopped their work to gape at the bearded, black-coated apparition with a fur shtreimel hat on his head.

“We are visiting Hodel,” Shmuelik explained. “That is, her father and sisters have arrived, and there are certain matters of kashrut which need to be performed.”

The girls stared at him brazenly, directly into his eyes, the way men look at each other. Shmuelik had never encountered females like this. Embarrassed, he looked away.

“Do whatever you have to,” one said. “You are a guest.”

Quickly, Shmuelik entered the kitchen and set aside small portions of the vegetables which the women had prepared. When he finished separating the trumah and maaser tithes as the Torah prescribed, he began washing leaves of lettuce in a bucket of water.

“We already rinsed them,” one of the young women said.

“Hold a leaf up to the light,” he answered.

The girl inspected one of leaves which had already been washed. The green stalks were speckled with insects.

“Yeech,” the girl said in disgust.

“A Jew isn’t supposed to eat crawling creatures,” Shmuelik explained.

He asked for some vinegar. Soaking the leaves in the bitter liquid was the best way to make them bug free. “After soaking the leaves in the vinegar, they have to be washed again so that the taste isn’t spoiled,” he taught.

“Oh, nonsense,” said a girl with long braided hair. “Bugs are so small, what harm can they do?”

Once again, with the Sabbath only minutes away, Shmuelik didn’t have time to answer the question. “Did you bake any loaves of bread?” he asked.

“Certainly we did,” the girl named Sonia answered. “What do you take us for?”

Shmuelik broke off some pieces from the bread which the women had baked and said a blessing over the special challah portion. As it turned out, kosher meat wasn’t a problem at all. The evening’s main course was fish. Meat was a luxury which the kibbutz could not afford even on the Sabbath.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/the-book-shelf/tevye-in-the-promised-land-books/tevye-in-the-promised-land-chapter-13-tzeitls-last-wish/2012/09/13/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: