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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Tevye’

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Thirty: Waters of Eden

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

What was a man, Tevye thought, that one moment he could be so filled with power and seemingly invincible force, and the next moment a motionless pile of flesh? He knew that the body on the ground wasn’t the real Goliath, but only the oversized suit which his giant soul had worn during his wanderings on earth. The real Goliath was on his way to Heaven and a world where size was measured in good deeds and Torah, not in physical power and strength. That’s what the Rabbis taught, and who was Tevye to disagree? The mysteries and secrets of life were beyond his understanding, but he was certain that the lifeless imposter before him wasn’t Goliath. His faithful companion couldn’t be gone. The Divine energy called life didn’t just disappear. Goliath simply had slipped out of his bulky lumberjack’s costume to journey to a less cumbersome world.

“Blessed be the true Judge,” a voice said.

It was Nachman.

“When will it end?” Tevye asked.

Nachman could only shake his head as he gazed down at his lifelong friend.

“I told him not to sleep in the barn. Like always, he worried about everyone else without thinking about himself.”

Nachman turned away and held on to Tevye.

“He was like a brother and father to me.”

Tevye let his son-in-law silently weep in his arms. He remembered how the giant had watched over Nachman, like a mother hen guarding its chick.

“He’s in a better world now,” Tevye observed.

Nachman nodded, wiping the tears from his eyes. “I know,” he said. “I know. But he was such a good friend.”

Tevye himself felt like crying, but he had to stay strong for the boy. Death had robbed him of his best friends from the past, and he needed someone to remind him that for a Jew, life always had a happier future. That was the steadfast belief which had kept his People going for the last two thousand years, throughout endless persecutions and wanderings.

“Everything God does is always for the best, even if we can’t

understand,” Tevye told him. “Do you remember on the boat to

Israel, when they turned us away from landing, you had to remind me that everything turns out for our good?”

“I remember,” Nachman replied.

“Someday, when we gaze down from Heaven, we will understand these great secrets. But right now, you had better call Guttmacher,” Tevye said.

Nachman nodded. He walked out of the barn to fetch the undertaker, leaving Tevye alone with the toppled Goliath. “Alexander, the son of Rivka,” Tevye said, saying a prayer for the departed man’s soul. Tevye bent down and closed Goliath’s eyes. When he stood up, a rooster leaped onto the dead man’s chest and perched there like a vulture. Tevye shouted and kicked at the bird. Squawking, it flew into the air. Angrily, Tevye raced around the barn, scaring the chickens away. For Nachman’s sake, he had spoken strengthening words of faith. But alone with the very great loss, he succumbed to the more mortal feelings of anger and pain.

“Is this fair?” he called out toward the roof of the barn. “What did Goliath ever do to hurt a flea in his life? Is this the end he deserves – to drop dead amongst the cows and the chickens?!”

The roof didn’t answer. Neither did the animals. They were silent, hushed by Tevye’s outburst.

“You won’t break us!” Tevye shouted, raising a fist. “You won’t break us!”

A few pigeons flew out from the rafters.

“If Your judgment has to fall on someone, then leave the others alone. Let it all fall on me!”

Sighing, Tevye lowered his arm. He bent down and grabbed Goliath’s boots, thinking to drag the corpse out of the disease-ridden barn. As he gave the great hulk a tug, he heard a vertebra pop out of place in his spine. Tevye cried out in pain. Bent over double, he staggered to the door of the barn, shuffling his feet on the ground like a hunchback. Leaning against the barn wall, he looked up at Heaven and groaned.

“Okay,” he said, clutching his aching back. “You win. I shouldn’t have opened my big mouth.”

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Twenty-Nine: The Plague

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Needless to say, the Baron Rothschild never showed up. For the time being, Hodel and her baby, Ben Zion, moved into Ruchel’s cottage. The newcomers shared the curtained-off corner with Bat Sheva, Moishe, and Hannei. Goliath went to work cutting planks in order to add on another room to the house. Tevye told Nachman that he hoped the arrangement would be temporary. He confessed that he had a secret plan to interest Shmuelik in his daughter, Hodel. Of course, as long as Hodel was still Perchik’s wife, remarrying was out of the question, but if her rotten husband didn’t show up in a hurry with a promise to repent in his ways, Tevye was determined to demand a divorce.

Nachman didn’t complain about the overcrowded cottage, nor about the hard work, nor about having had to give up his job as a teacher. Even when his soft scholar’s hand turned calloused with blisters, he didn’t regret his decision to leave Rishon Le Zion for the remote and windy Morasha hillside.

“Blisters of redemption,” he called them.

“My tzaddik of a son-in-law,” Tevye called him.

While Tevye’s faith was as deep as any man’s, he wasn’t ashamed to complain now and again about injustices he saw in the world, especially when they were directed against him. But Nachman would never dream of such an irreverence. He turned everything into a mitzvah in the supreme commanment to settle the Holy Land. Guarding the yishuv in the middle of the night was a mitzvah. Walking two hours for a bucket of water was a mitzvah. And the back-breaking work in the fields was a mitzvah too. Why should his overcrowded cottage disturb him? Often, he let his sister-in-law, Hodel, sleep in his very own bed! He preferred sleeping outside under the stars just like his great forefather, Jacob.

Even when Nachman had to give up his morning learning to labor in the fields alongside the Arabs when a settler was sick, he didn’t complain. How else were the Jewish People to be redeemed from exile in foreign places if not through the strenuous work of rebuilding their own land? The Almighty was ready to do His part, but they had to do theirs. The Jews had to prove that they wanted the Land of Israel more than anything else in the world. A long time ago, their ancestors had abused the privilege of living in the land of milk and honey, and so, in punishment, God had taken it away and scattered them amongst the gentiles. Now that the Almighty was leading them back to the land of their forefathers, the Jews had to prove that they had learned their lesson.

As Shmuelik said, “What was better? Suffering in exile for

whatever crumbs a Jew could gather, or suffering for your own dearly loved soil?”

During his first year in the Holy Land, Tevye was more of a pragmatist. True, he had lived like a dog all of his life in Russia, but not every Jew lived off crumbs. The Baron Rothschild, for instance, with all of his billions, could hardly be said to be suffering.

“How do you know what headaches he has?” Shmuelik asked. “Haven’t our Sages taught us, ‘The more possessions, the more worries; the more money, the more thieves?’”

“That’s true,” Tevye admitted. “But all the same, I would be willing to change places with the Baron and worry about his railroads and yachts, while he sits here and tends to my cows.”

“Not me,” Shmuelik answered. “I would much rather have a wagon and mule in the Land of Israel than all of the railroads in France.”

The wonderful thing was that Shmuelik truly believed what he said. His optimism was a pillar of strength not only to Tevye, but to everyone in the settlement. If anyone had a personal problem, they would seek out Shmuelik’s advice, even though he was still a young man, If it were a matter of Jewish law, Nachman, the more serious scholar, was the person to ask. But if you needed someone to listen, then the good-natured Shmuelik was the address. And when people weren’t coming to him, he was going to them, always seeking to help others and to lend a neighborly hand.

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Twenty-Eight: Waiting for the Baron

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

When word arrived that Baron Edmond Rothschild was coming for a visit, with none other than the famous Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the colony turned into a frantic beehive of activity. Since the death of Theodor Herzl, Weizmann had become one of the driving forces behind the Zionist movement in Europe. The Russian-born chemist had become a leader of the World Zionist Congress, and his diplomatic skill, erudition, per­sonal magnetism, and dedication to the Zionist cause had won the respect of political leaders throughout the world. The rumor of the pending visit was started by the driver of the monthly supply wagon on one of his trips out of Zichron Yaacov. He said that the Baron and Weizmann were due to arrive in Palestine for an inspection of all of the settlements, and that the Morasha region was being considered as the next major development area of both the Keren Keyemet, Jewish National Fund, and the Jew­ish Colony Association. That meant a possible investment of millions and millions of francs to turn the quiet village of Morasha into a bustling agricultural center. The billionaire phi­lanthropist and the charismatic political leader were known to be friends, and if they were impressed by what they saw on their visit, it was almost certain that the Baron would spread money like fertiLazer throughout the hillsides of Morasha.

In the excitement, no one bothered to ask how the driver of the monthly supply wagon was privileged to such exclusive information. As the news spread from settler to settler, the dream of transforming the struggling yishuv into a model metropolis seemed absolutely assured. Someone said that the scientific-minded Weizmann planned to build a university on the crest of the Morasha hillside. Another said the area was slated to be turned into a modern industrial park. It was even rumored that the Baron Rothschild was thinking of Morasha as the site of a new summer mansion.

Hearing these wild fantasies, Tevye scoffed.

A boobe-miseh if I ever heard one,” he said. “And I sup­pose that the Mashiach is on his way too.”

His reference was to the Jewish messiah, whom the Jews had expected for two-thousand years. Faithful to the promises of the Prophets and Sages, the Jews waited for his coming every day. The Hasidim were especially on alert for his arrival. If nightfall came without a sign of his appearance, they took solace that certainly the Mashiach would come the very next day to usher in the awaited age of salvation. It was a dream Tevye had fostered every day of his life. He believed it with all of his soul. If only the Jews would return to their Maker in repentance, surely the scion of King David would come to rescue the downtrodden nation.

Tevye was far more skeptical regarding the coming of Baron

Rothschild.  But when the Company manager, LeClerc, arrived with the very same news, Tevye also caught the fast-spreading fever. His imagination proved as fertile as his neighbors. Not only would Morasha become the Paris of the Middle East, Tevye could very well become one of the wealthiest men in the region. Stranger things had happened in life. Hadn’t Joseph, the simple shepherd boy, become ruler of the mighty land of Egypt? Every schoolboy knew the story. And what was the secret of Joseph’s success? His dreams!

LeClerc assembled the settlers together outside of the barn as the sun sank over the distant ocean. The historic visit, he said, was just three days away. Because of political developments in Europe, the entourage had embarked sooner than planned. After brief stops in Rishon Le Zion and Zichron Yaacov, the Baron and the Doctor of Chemistry were arriving in Morasha to scout the site them­selves to determine if the expansive, virgin region could be transformed into a center of Jewish immigration for the hundreds of thousands of Jews whose lives were being threatened by the worsening persecutions in Russia.

Needless to say, LeClerc continued, it was imperative that the Morasha colony and its settlers put on their finest appear­ance. To this end, a shipment was due to arrive the next day with building supplies, paint, flowers and plants, new clothes for the settlers, and enough food to prepare a banquet for a king.

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Twenty-Seven: Hodel Leaves Perchik

Monday, February 18th, 2013

   Overnight, Tevye’s new cottage became a warm, haimisher home. In reality, the hastily built structure was merely a hut with a roof, but in the eyes of the newlyweds, it was a royal abode. The morning after the wedding, as if in a dream, the aroma of freshly baked bread awakened the groom. With a feeling of wonder, Tevye watched his beautiful wife prepare him a breakfast of goat’s cheese, olives, and the traditional Yemenite bread, malawach.      “You missed the morning minyan,” she said.

“That’s to be expected,” Tevye answered with a smile. “After all, I am a new chatan.” Indeed, he felt like a groom.

“Are you happy?” she asked.

“Very,” he answered. “I am the happiest man in the world.”

Carmel blushed and went back to the tiny brick oven in the corner of the hut which served as a kitchen. Tevye pulled a curtain along the cord which divided the sleeping area from the salon. He dressed and stepped outside to wash his hands and his face in a basin of water. Nachman and Shmuelik were learning in the synagogue when Tevye stepped in to pray. They stood up and shook Tevye’s hand and wished him more mazal tovs.”

“May your own wedding be soon,” Tevye said to Shmuelik.

“From your lips to God’s ears,” the bachelor responded.

“Why didn’t you wake me to pray with the others?” Tevye asked as he donned his tefillin.

“A chatan is a king for the first year of his marriage,” Nachman answered. “And a king deserves his rest. So we decided to go ahead without you.”

“Some king,” Tevye answered. “There is work to be done.”

“A one-day vacation won’t kill you. Take it easy. Go on a long walk with your wife. Don’t worry. Your work will be waiting for you.”

Tevye grumbled. It was true, he needed a rest. He felt like a ragged shmatte. With all of the tumult leading up to the wedding, his mind was as drained as his body. But, thank God, the demon had fled. Blessed with new insight, he realized that even that madness and the crazy scheme of the Muktar had been sent by the Lord, to rescue him from the barn and bring him to wed. Praise be the work of the Lord.

After davening, he returned to the house. With a shy, nervous blush, Carmel set his breakfast before him as if she were serving a king. Silently, she poured him a hot cup of tea. Before he had finished eating, she had already swept the floor. Then, without stopping for a moment, she hung a yellow curtain in the window and spread an embroidered quilt on their bed. Tevye had to rise up his feet as she unrolled the hand-woven rug which the Muktar had given them for a present. Not to sit idle and stare, Tevye unpacked the candlesticks he had brought from Anatevka and set them on the dresser which Reb Shilo had made. Originally, the candlesticks had belonged to his mother. When Tevye had married, she had given them to Golda.

“Every Sabbath evening, my wife, Golda, would light the Sabbath candles and say a special prayer, recalling my father and mother,” Tevye told his new wife.

“I will recall them also,” Carmel said softly.

Alongside the candlesticks, Tevye placed his Bible and the six volumes of Mishna which Nachman and Ruchel had given to the newlyweds as a gift. To help bring the blessing of Torah into Tevye’s new house, Reb Guttmacher had volunteered to come over every evening to study with the “chatan” as he liked to call Tevye. And, amazingly, Tevye felt like a groom. For the first time in ages, he looked forward to the mornings, as if he had a new lease on life. After all, would God have given him such a tender young ewe if his own end was near? Overnight, he felt strong and invincible, as he had as a youth. The Lord God of Israel was with him, filling him with a confidence and joy that he wanted to share with the world.

He even accomplished twice as much work in the field. Miraculously, his back stopped aching, and instead of crashing to sleep on the floor of the barn immediately after the evening prayers, the whole first week of the wedding, he and his bride feasted and celebrated with friends hours into the night. His joy was so great, he failed to notice that behind his Hodel’s smile was a deeply troubled heart. All through the week, she was silent, not wanting to spoil her father’s great joy. Of course, when Carmel’s brother, Yigal, had come to Shoshana to fetch her to the wedding, she had been astonished and pleased with the news. But it was hard to wear a smile when her own marriage was falling apart.

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Twenty-Six: Tevye Takes a Wife

Monday, February 11th, 2013

  Both of Elisha’s two grown daughters were golden-skinned, beautiful, devoutly religious, and nearly half Tevye’s age. The eldest daughter, Carmel, was naturally the first choice of the parents, but Elisha told Tevye he could marry whomever he picked. Embarrassed by the whole distressing business, and wanting the matter to be concluded as discreetly as possible, Tevye told him that Carmel would be fine.      Tevye had never been a man to pay much attention to women, except for his wife, Golda, of course, but now and then on the settlement, he had noticed that Elisha’s eldest daughter far surpassed all of the other young women, not only in beauty, but also in the industrious way that she worked. Whether it was in the dining tent, the chicken coop, or the fields, she seemed to do twice as much work as the others. Now that a match was in the making, Tevye helped himself to a few extra looks. Being a man with a great lust for life and a healthy appreciation of the Almighty’s Creation, he could not help but notice how truly pretty she was. But her youth made him feel so uneasy, he wanted to forget the whole crazy scheme. As if to make sure, he snuck into Ruchel’s house and searched for a mirror. A long time had passed since he had seen his reflection, and now when he stared into her looking glass, he could only shake his head sadly at the old bearded goat that stared back. True, he had not turned grey completely, but white hairs were beginning to sprout in his beard and along the sides of his head like patches of weeds. Catching him with the mirror, Ruchela teased him for being so vain. She said that the “silver” in his hair lent him an air of nobility and wisdom. Laughing, she told him to stop worrying about getting old. But it was not only his age which bothered Tevye. Suddenly, he noticed that his belly had grown rounder and softer, his teeth had yellowed and chipped, and his back ached so painfully that some mornings he had to summon all of his strength to get out of bed. “It’s all in your mind,” Ruchel said. “Besides, Carmel is a woman already with a mind of her own.”

To make certain that Carmel was not being forced into the marriage, Tevye sent his daughter on a mission to speak to the bride. He wanted her to know what a broken-down husband she was getting. Tevye himself was too embarrassed to go. Since the day he had agreed to the marriage and shaken hands with the father, Tevye had hardly spoken a word to the young girl herself. For one thing, she was shy, and whenever she glanced at him with her dark, sparkling eyes, Tevye was flabbergasted completely. Suddenly, Tevye, the orator, had nothing to say. Whenever he was next to her, he became as tongue-tied as Moses had been when he had discovered the burning bush.

Ruchel came back with a glowing report. Carmel was all smiles, the happiest girl in the world. For months, she had been casting secret glances at Tevye, her father’s best friend. If her father thought highly of him, that was enough for Carmel. The difference in their ages didn’t bother her at all. On the contrary, she told Ruchel that Tevye’s great wisdom would help them build a proper Jewish house. What bothered Carmel the most, Ruchel said, was her own insecurity in being so young. After all, Tevye hardly ever said a word to her, certainly because he was so learned and worldly, and she was so naive and unschooled.

“What did you answer?” Tevye asked.

“I said that while it was true that you ranked with the likes of Rashi and the Rambam, you also enjoyed talking to horses and cows, and that she shouldn’t let your big beard make her think you were as old as Methusalah.”

Tevye nodded. It was good that a wife should feel some awe for her husband. True, Golda hadn’t. But she had lived with Tevye for twenty-five years and seen him in his weakest moments, like when he had let her cousin Menachem Mendel squander all of their savings on stocks. He realized that Elisha’s daughter saw him as a philosopher, a statesman, a pioneer builder. It was important, therefore, that he remain bigger than life in her eyes, and not let her find out that he was really an ordinary nebick like everyone else.

When Tevye Healed the Muktar’s Daughter

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

For readers who think I’m exaggerating when I claim that “Tevye in the Promised Land” is unquestionably one of the greatest Jewish novels ever written, here’s an excerpt from this week’s Jewish Press serialization.

When the daughter of the Muktar from a neighboring village becomes bedridden with hepatitis, the Arab chieftain sends an emergency delegation to bring Tevye to heal her. In order to promote peace between the Arabs and the Jews, Tevye goes to the village and tries a proven, old-fashion remedy on the Muktar’s beautiful daughter….

From Chapter 25:

Before letting the Jews start on their way, the Muktar begged Tevye to pray for his daughter.

“Allah answers the prayers of the Jews,” he said.

What choice did Tevye have? The Arabs were their neighbors. The Muktar, in a way, was his friend. There was nothing in the Bible which forbade a Jew from praying for the health of a gentile. On the contrary, Abraham prayed for the Philistine king, Avimelech, and the king and his wife were healed. And the liturgy of Rosh HaShana, one of the holiest days of the year, was filled with prayers for all of mankind. So Tevye prayed, “May the Almighty heal the Muktar‘s daughter.”

Ten days later, the Abdul Abdulla showed up once again in Morasha. This time his daughter was with him. Like a princess, she rode in a wagon, swathed in a shawl and a veil which covered her cheeks. Flowers, the color of a sunset, were braided into her hair like a crown. Tevye was working in his garden when the Muktar rushed up and embraced him. His daughter had miraculously recovered. His friend Tevye had saved her from death. The very same day that Tevye had come to their village, the sick girl had stood on her feet. The next day, her color had returned to her face.

“See for yourself,” the happy Muktar said, pointing at his daughter.

With the veil hiding the lower half of her face, it was hard to tell how she was feeling. But the look of deep gratitude in her black, flashing eyes told Tevye that she had recovered.

The Muktar barked at his daughter, obviously commanding her to lower the veil for the doctor. When her fingers pushed the silk strands away, Tevye understood why Abdulla was so passionately concerned about his eldest daughter. She was, by all standards, a beauty.

“I can never repay you enough,” the chief said. “But to show you my gratitude, I want to give you my daughter in marriage. She will convert to your religion. She will learn to speak Hebrew. I promise you, she will be an obedient wife.”

Tevye was dumbfounded. For one of the few times in his life, he couldn’t find words.

The Arab held out his hand for his daughter to come down from the wagon. A slender golden leg appeared from the folds of her sari-like gown as she stepped down to the ground. Flustered, Tevye glanced away at his garden.

“Isn’t she beautiful?” the Muktar asked, proudly displaying the girl, as if she were a horse in the market.

Gracefully, like a snake in the grass, the girl moved forward in her long flowing dress. She was young, yes, but a woman all the same. Long black hair cascaded over her shoulders. Embarrassed, Tevye couldn’t find words.

“Please,” Abdulla said. “Take her. She’s yours.”

With the Muktar grabbing his arm, it was impossible for Tevye not to gaze at the girl. But even if a flood of raging waters were to smash the dam inside him, he would never, never give in. Some things were unthinkable. Some things could never be condoned. How could he ever face God? And how could he ever look at his daughters? What would become of all he had taught them if he himself were to be conquered by the wild beating in his heart? No, he would rather spend his life in the barn with the horses and cows than take some strange Delilah for a wife.

“Save me, dear Golda, save me,” he thought, clinging to her memory with all of his might.

“I will give you a rich dowry with land and with horses when you take her,” the Arab chief promised. “The marriage will be like a peace treaty between our two peoples.”

Tevye shook his head. No, no, it never could be. But he couldn’t find the right words to answer.

“Isn’t it written in your Bible that a man should not live alone? Allah heard your prayers and brought my girl back to life. Now she is yours forever.”

Tevye shook his head. He glanced at the girl, and her eyes flashed a look of unabashed gratitude, so bold and direct that Tevye felt as if a bomb had gone off in his head. He looked down at the ground, but even the mere sight of her sandaled foot made him shudder.

“Golda, save me,” he prayed…
HAPPY READING!

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Twenty-Five: Tevye Cures the Muktar’s Daughter

Monday, February 4th, 2013

     On the arranged date, the Jews set out to survey the land which their Arab neighbors wanted to sell. The Muktar Abdulla graciously sent them a guide who showed them the way through the mountains to his village. Traveling on horseback, the journey up and down the hillsides and valleys took them two hours, but a bird could have spanned the same distance in minutes. While LeClerc was adamantly against the meeting, calling it an excuse to take off from work, the Morasha settlers went all the same, having reached the conclusion that the Morasha colony desperately needed to find a new site. The topography of their present location was simply not suited for farming. If the parcel which the Arabs were selling had more potential than Morasha, than the settlers would advise the Baron to buy it. They hoped that by appealing to the Baron directly, they could circumvent his parsimonious clerk.      In the meantime, the Morasha pioneers had made another important decision. After days of debate, the community forum had voted to hire Arab laborers to work with them in the fields. Nachman and Shmuelik were against the plan for ideological reasons. It was important, they claimed, to build a Jewish work force, and to rely solely on Jewish labor. Tevye was more pragmatic. The settlers were shorthanded, the work was never ending, and they needed to make as much progress as they could before the winter began. Also, if there were Arabs to work in the fields, the Jews would be free to erect more houses. In the end, Tevye’s supporters won out. The Arab village was modest in size, consisting of a few dozen mud dwellings, surrounding a centralized mosque. Children walked barefoot and scavenged through mounds of garbage. Many were skeleton thin, and yellow pus dripped from their eyes. Dogs lounged lifelessly in the shade, their tongues hanging out of their mouths, their ribs clearly visible in their emaciated chests. Chickens ran around everywhere. Dangling from a pole was the head of a camel. Flies swarmed around the blood which was still dripping from the cut where the neck had been severed from the animal’s body. “Camel is an Arab delicacy,” Elisha told Tevye.

“They eat it?” Tevye asked, his eyes wide in surprise.

“Not only do they eat it – they’ll expect you to eat it too.”

The Muktar rushed forward and greeted them warmly, falling on his knees and bowing. His hand moved ceremoniously from his heart to his lips in gestures of loyalty and devotion. For what seemed a full minute, the Jews faced the Arabs and bowed in exchanges of mutual honor. How different this tribe was from the Arabs who had murdered Ben Zion, Tevye thought. Still bowing, the chief inviting the Jews into his house, where a feast was laid out before them. Noticing their worried glances, the Muktar assured them that in preparing the food, he had been careful to respect the dietary laws of the Jews. All of the salads, vegetables, and fruits could be eaten, and the main course was to be a Mediterranean couscous with raisins and nuts. The Muktars daughters poured tea from gleaming brass pots, and a water pipe filled with aromatic herbs was passed around for all to imbibe. Nachman refrained from eating the Arab pita, but Tevye and Elisha washed their hands and made a HaMotzei blessing on the bread, not wanting to offend their host who insisted they eat. Watching the Yemenite break off pieces of pita and scoop up the heavily oiled techina and humous, Tevye followed suit, as if he had been eating oriental salads for years. To his surprise, he found himself taking seconds of the pasty, exotic spreads. Nonetheless, as more colorful dishes and salads were spread out before them, Tevye kept an eye out for the other half of the camel which they had seen hanging outside.

The Muktar poured the Jews glasses of a tasty date liqueur which Elisha called Yaish.

L’Chaim,” the chief toasted, allowing himself a small sip.

L’Chaim,” the Jews responded.

After the satiating meal, the Muktar Abdul Abdulla showed the Jews his land deed and led them on a tour of the parcel of land which he wanted to sell, a short ride away from the village. The site was situated upon a plateau, with breathtaking views to all sides. Underground wells were plentiful, and, in the past, much of the land had been cultivated, obviating the need to carve fields out of the rocky soil. Hillsides had been planted with olive trees, and terraced for vineyards.

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