Study Guide

Tevye the Dairyman The Great Windfall

By Sholem Aleichem

The Great Windfall

  • With a long wind-up about fate and God's will, and his usual crazy quilt of Torah quotes, Tevye lets his listener know that he's about to tell the story of how he became a dairyman.
  • About ten years ago, he and his family were super poor—like, sometimes-not-enough-to-eat level poor.
  • Tevye worked as a woodcutter, basically a freelance guy who chops up wood in the forest and then sells it to construction companies.
  • Tevye has no idea how the big change came about, but as he never stops repeating, it was obviously all because of God's big plan. How does he know it was God's plan? Because if God wanted it some other way, it would be some other way. Logic FTW.
  • So anyway, one day, after his log delivery, Tevye is riding through the woods on his wagon, thinking about his miserable wife and children, and having a conversation with God about why the Jews have it so rough.
  • (Incidentally, he does this kind of back and forth with God a lot. As Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof sums it up: "God, I know we're the Chosen People—but couldn't you sometimes choose someone else?")
  • Out of nowhere he runs into two women. Turns out they're lost in the woods, and ask him directions to Boiberik, the rich resort town nearby.
  • He tells them that road they're on will lead to Boiberik… if they just stay on it for a long, long time. So they ask for a ride, even though he's headed in the opposite direction.
  • After some back-and-forth, he agrees. As they start riding, Tevye realizes regretfully that he didn't set a price ahead of time. Well, he thinks, at least I'm a good person.
  • Sure, try making that excuse to your wife and starving children.
  • On the road, it turns out that the women are coming from Yehupetz, the fancy town near Tevye's little village, and that they're connected to a wealthy family.
  • Tevye can practically hear the reward money rolling in.
  • When they get to the dacha (summer house) where the women are staying, everyone is totally relieved to see them.
  • They celebrate with a huge spread of the most amazing food Tevye has ever seen. (We're guessing that it doesn't take much to impress a starving woodcutter.)
  • He hangs out while they eat until they finally remember their manners and offer him a place at the table. But he mentions his hungry family back home, so instead they pack him up lots of stuff to take back with him.
  • Not only that, but every person there chips in money to pay him for the trouble.
  • Not only that, but he discovers that they have fed and rested his horse.
  • And not only that, but the hostess gives Tevye one of their milk cows!
  • He is totally overwhelmed by all the awesomeness.
  • Tevye gets home in the middle of the night and wakes up his wife Golde, and all his kids to have a midnight feast.
  • Later, Tevye shows Golde all the money—37 rubles. We know this is a lot, because earlier he said that one lucky rich guy he knows makes somewhere between 20-40 rubles a week.
  • After brainstorming a bazillion crazy schemes, Tevye and Golde decide to double down and buy another milk cow. With two, they'll be able to make enough dairy products to sell.
  • Tevye also has the brilliant idea to become a door-to-door dairy delivery man, since all the fancy rich people in Yehupetz are all about convenience and would probably love a daily dairy service.
  • If Amazon could hack a daily dairy service, we'd be all over that.