Sarah is working now in the chicken house. She says Simcha is the one who should be in the coop because he has been afraid to marry her. I don’t know who is more frustrated, Sarah or Golde. I take that back — of course I know.
Now that the family is reunited, poor Golde worries almost full time about potential grooms. She has already started complaining again that the kibbutz has no matchmaker, as if one of Tevye’s daughters would ever allow someone else to choose their husband. To tell you the truth, I don’t miss having the responsibility for the happiness of my daughters. How could I find anyone learned enough for my angels? All right, maybe a rabbi would qualify, but Golde would insist on a rich rabbi and those are a lot harder to find.
It’s difficult to believe I almost chose to give my Tzeitl to the butcher Lazer-Wolf. A butcher! And one old enough to be her papa. I’m glad I thought better of it. Motel certainly turned out to be a good husband and provider.
You see how quickly my thoughts go back to my eldest? Devorah hardly stayed long enough for me to have a thought about her. Golde tried to ask her what she’d been doing, and why she was with the newcomers, but all Devorah would say is that she was doing God’s work.
When Golde was not in the room, Devorah did tell me the Haganah had agents all over Europe buying anything that would float. Many of the boats are old, rusty and unsuited for carrying people, she said, but the immigrants don’t care. They want so desperately to come to Palestine. At first she didn’t think the Haganah needed her, but when she saw the condition of many of the people fleeing Europe, especially after weeks on the sometimes stormy seas, she felt like the most important member of the army.
Devorah said the whole world was contained in those little ships, mothers, fathers, children, everyone with a tale to tell. Women giving birth, old men dying, the cycle of life unfolds each day before her eyes. And after surviving everything else, and coming within sight of the Promised Land, the British can swoop in like an ill wind waking you from the most pleasant dream. If they are caught, the Jews are sent back and the Haganah fighters are arrested.
“You could drown in a shipwreck, catch a disease or be arrested. Aren’t you scared?” I asked.
Do you know what Devorah said? This child of the kibbutz’s school of socialists and atheists? She said, “Papa, the Talmud teaches us that to save one life is as if you saved the whole world.”
Can you believe my daughter is quoting the Talmud to me? And you do not believe I am blessed?
I asked her where the children had come from that had arrived along with the rest of our family. They were all alone.
Devorah explained that they had come from Germany. The Chancellor, a fellow named Hitler, is a pathological anti-Semite. When he first took power, she said, Jews began to lose their jobs. The situation has grown steadily worse and many Jews are so afraid of what may happen they’ve begun to send their children out of the country. Devorah explained that the Haganah is bringing as many as it can to Palestine. The kibbutzim have offered to take them in.
She barely finished her explanation before she had to leave again. She was returning to her job of saving the whole world.
This excerpt is from Mitchell Bard’s novel, After Anatevka – Tevye Goes to Palestine available now in paperback and on Kindle.