Tevye in the Promised Land

Tzvi Fishman,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Tzvi Fishman
Tzvi Fishman is a recipient of the Israel Ministry of Education Award for Creativity and Jewish Culture. His many novels and books on a variety of Jewish themes are available at Amazon Books. Recently, he has published "Arise and Shine!" and "The Lion's Roar" - 2 sequels to his popular novel, "Tevye in the Promised Land." In Israel, the Tevye trilogy is distributed by Sifriyat Bet-El Publishing. He is also the director and producer of the feature film, "Stories of Rebbe Nachman," starring Israel's popular actor, Yehuda Barkan. www.tzvifishmanbooks.com ...

Volume One of the “Tevye in the Promised Land” Series

TEVYE IN THE PROMISED LAND

Chapter One

ANATEVKA

 Nemerov, the district Police Commissioner, reared his horse in the air.

 "Three days," he warned. "The Jews of Anatevka have three days to clear out of the area."

 Tevye spat in disgust at the ground. "Three days," he brooded. Three days were all the authorities were giving the Jews to sell their belongings and evacuate the village they loved.

 It didn't matter that the Jews had lived in Anatevka long before the Russians. The Police Commissioner didn't care that Tevye's great-grandfather, may his memory be a blessing, had cleared the forest by the lake and built the first house in the region. It didn't matter to the Czar and his soldiers that for as long as anyone could remember, the Jews had dutifully paid the taxes which had laden the Czar's table with food, while the pantries of the Jews remained bare. Nor did it matter to them that the Jews had cleaned out the stables of the Russian landowners, chopped their wood, sewed their garments, and delivered their milk. It didn't matter that a Jew would bow in respect when a Russian passed by, just to keep peace. Nor did it matter to them that the decent folk of Anatevka had no other place to call home. They were Jews, and that was that. The Czar, may he and his loved ones be cursed, had made his decision in the interests of the motherland. His order was final. The Jews had three days to get out. The butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers of Anatevka had been declared enemies of the state.

 The usually goodhearted milkman spat in anger as the Police Commissioner and his soldiers rode out of the village. Then he looked up at the heavens and prayed.

 "My Father and King, Whose ways are perfect and just, and Who does only good to His people – even if we can't understand Your kindness in throwing us out of our homes – after the Jews of Anatevka have journeyed to some faraway land, may the Czar and his Cossacks be swallowed up into the earth."

 Not that all Russians were as wicked as the Czar and his soldiers. After all, the same God had created all people, Jews and Russians alike. Loving God meant loving all of His creation. But sometimes, it wasn't so easy. When someone kicks you out of your home, and treats you like dirt, it's hard for a man to be grateful.

 Where would they go? Tevye didn't know. To Broditchov, in a distant part of Russia, where the pogroms had not yet struck? To America? To Poland? To the Land of Israel? To England? Or France? Tevye didn't have time to think up a plan. He would simply go along with everyone else in his village, wherever the Almighty led them. After all, had Abraham known his destination when God told him to leave his birthplace for some faraway land? As the Torah says, "And Abraham believed!" He trusted in God. Without complaining, he packed up his belongings and went.

 Tevye's head kept spinning like it did when he drank too much vodka on Purim. There were so many things to arrange. How do you pack a lifetime into three days? Maybe he should have pulled the Police Commissioner off of his horse and given him a good thrashing. Maybe he should have rallied the Jews to rebellion. But what would that have accomplished? Reports of pogroms had reached them from all over Russia. Burnings, lootings, evacuations, the slaughter of innocent women and children. Just because they were Jews. How could they rebel? Did the Jews have an army? Did they have weapons with which they could fight? Was Tevye Judah the Maccabee, that he could rally people to follow him? What kind of resistance could the lowly Jews muster?

 Tevye trudged back to his tiny castle, the home he had built long ago with more youthful hands. Was a house merely pieces of wood that a man could so easily sell it? What about all of the years, the memories, the joys, and the sorrows? True, Tevye thought, he could have survived just as well without all of the sorrows, but that was the life of a Jew. There were good times and bad. A house could be sold, but what about all of the memories engraved in the planks of the walls? Well, he supposed he could take his memories with him.

 His daughters, Tzeitl, Bat Sheva, and Ruchel, stared at him as he sank into his chair. They had witnessed the degrading spectacle from the doorway of the house. They had watched the Commissioner rear his horse and almost knock their father down when Tevye had grabbed the stallion's reins in an effort to plead for his people.

 "Where will we go?" Tzeitl asked.

 "Where the Almighty leads us," Tevye answered.

 "What will we do when we get there?" Bat Sheva, the youngest, inquired.

 "What the Almighty decrees."

 "Who will buy our house?" Tzeitl continued. Her two small children, Moishe and Hannie, ran over to hug her. They gazed up at their grandfather with big, searching eyes.

 Tevye didn't have an answer.

 "Is it true, Tata," Ruchel said. "Do we really have to leave Anatevka?"

 Their questions were giving him a headache.

 "Am I the Almighty?" he asked, slamming a hand on the table. "Do I decide what will be in the world? Do I stand in the place of the Creator that I know His secret plans?"

 Tevye stood up from his chair. In painful situations, a father had to appear confident. When the ship was sinking, the captain had to keep firm command. In times of crisis, children needed the example of a father's unwavering faith.

 "Enough pointless chatter," he said. "Haven't our Sages warned us that a man who talks at length with women brings calamity down on his head? The Almighty will provide for us, just as he has for the last four-thousand years. Pack up what you need for a journey. The rest I will sell in the city. In the meantime, your father has important business which he needs to transact."

 In the barn, Tevye saddled his horse. He didn't have the heart to tell the creature the news. They had been companions through rainstorms and blizzards, through famine and blight. Together, they had shared life's burdens for thousands of miles. The old mare had been as faithful to him as his wife.

 "Oy Golda," Tevye said, sighing at her memory. "May your soul rest in peace."

 Finally, he understood why God, in His kindness, had taken Golda away from him while she was still in the prime of her life. To spare her the humiliation of being chased out of her house by the soldiers of the Czar.

 In his crestfallen state, the journey into Yehupetz seemed to take longer than usual. Tevye's horse must have thought it strange to travel such a long distance in silence, but Tevye was not in the mood for conversation. His thoughts were so jumbled, his usual erudition escaped him. A lone verse of King David's Psalms echoed in his thoughts: "Some with chariots, and some with horses, but we in the name of the Lord our God call out." There was some consolation in that. Even if the authorities took away his house, his wagon, and even his horse, Tevye would still have his God.

 Luckily, the milkman's mazel was with him. The tax collector agreed to buy Tevye's house. Out of all the Russians Tevye knew, the tax collector, Karamozky, was the man he most trusted. Like clockwork, every three months, on the first day of the week, the punctual civil servant would arrive in Anatevka. After paying his village taxes, Tevye would invite him for a drink in his house. The tax collector seemed to enjoy Tevye's discourses on the Bible, and Tevye cherished nothing more than drinking with someone who was willing to listen. Golda was less enthused.

 "It's not your wisdom he likes," she said. "It's your vodka."

 Like the experienced salesman he was, Tevye set forth the advantages of buying the house as if it were a splendid estate. The tax collector himself could testify to its sturdy construction. Hadn't he sat there himself, a guest of the family, year after year, through winter snowstorms and the summer's scorching sun? Tevye even advised Karamozky to buy six or seven houses in Anatevka. That way he would become a principle investor in the village, like a baron with properties all over town. Finally, Tevye begged him.

 "If not for me, your devoted milkman, then for my daughters."

To be continued.

The “Tevye in the Promised Land” Series is available at Amazon Books:

https://www.amazon.com/Books-Tzvi-Fishman/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=i%3Abooks%2Cp_27%3ATzvi%20Fishman

In Israel:

http://www.beitel.co.il/?q=tzvi+fishman

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