“What’s gotten into you? After all this time on the kibbutz, you know we must all share and do our part.”
“That’s right, Papa,” Sarah said as she walked in the door.
“Don’t socialists knock anymore?” I said jumping behind a chair.
“Women have just as important a part to play on the kibbutz as men. We can do all the same jobs and do them just as well,” Sarah said without the slightest embarrassment.
“Another rabbi heard from. I don’t see you or your girlfriends volunteering to take my job cleaning the stables.” I spoke as I moved the chair toward the bedroom and dashed inside.
“It’s not such a tough job, Papa.”
“That’s no way to talk to your father,” Golde chided.
“Don’t your socialist friends believe in respecting their parents? They haven’t discarded all the commandments, have they?” I hollered as I pulled on my pants.
“We believe that all people should be treated equally.”
Why do I have the feeling I’ve heard this before? I buckled my pants and returned to face my daughter. “What is this ‘we’ believe?”
“I follow the teachings of the Labor Zionists who don’t believe we should live in the Dark Ages anymore, the way you did back in Russia.”
“Do you hear what your daughter is saying? Our traditions are from the Dark Ages and the great socialist thinkers don’t like them.”
“Tevye, don’t raise your voice.”
“Those traditions that your great thinkers want to throw away are what allowed us to survive those Dark Ages — and darker times since.”
“Oh Papa, what got us through the Dark Ages won’t help us in the twentieth century. It’s a new world. There are new ideas to solve new problems.”
“No, there are no new solutions. All you need is here,” I said, shaking a Bible in front of Sarah’s face.
“Tevye,” Golde cried weakly, grabbing her stomach.
“There are answers to all our problems in here. You just have to look for them. You haven’t looked. You don’t even know where to look. You’re just like your older sisters. You have no respect for tradition.”
As I turned around, still shaking the Bible at Sarah, I saw Golde clutching her stomach and collapse on the floor.
“Mama!” Sarah screamed.
“Golde!” I sprinted to where Golde fell. “Quick, Sarah, go and get Dr. Susser and Devorah.”
Sarah raced out the door.
I sat on the ground and let Golde rest her head in my lap. For the first time in a very long while, I was scared. Childbearing was much safer in Palestine than it had been in Russia, but pregnant women had died on the kibbutz. The thought made me shudder as I stroked Golde’s forehead.
“You’ll be fine. The doctor will be here soon.”
“Yes, I’m here.”
“Tevye. Will you really be disappointed if the baby is a girl?”
“Of course not. Any child is a blessing. And a daughter? What could be more precious?”
“But I have been such a terrible mother. I haven’t kept the family together. Tzeitl and Hodel are in Russia. Chava married out of the faith. Schprintze is dead. My God, poor Schprintze. Why couldn’t I help her?”
“Don’t excite yourself. You are a wonderful mother. You have a wonderful family that loves you. Sarah and Devorah are here. You read Tzeitl’s letter, Motel is saving up enough money to bring the rest of the family to Palestine. You’ll see, soon we’ll all be together again. And now I’m here, and I love you.”
“I love you too.”
This excerpt is from Mitchell Bard’s novel, After Anatevka – Tevya Goes to Palestine, available now in paperback and on Kindle.