Tonight, I noticed that Fiddler on the Roof was playing. I have seen that movie dozens of times. My first thought was, “Nah, I’ll find something else to watch.”
Thank goodness, there was nothing else playing and I opted to watch Fiddler one more time. Within seconds, my entire mood had lifted, and I was overjoyed that the fates gave me another opportunity to celebrate what I consider to be a perfect movie.
The music could not be better, and for those of us who did not grow up as Jewish people, the movie is a grand introduction to what I consider to be a beautiful culture that is a significant part of this world’s history and a vital part of Biblical history.
Seconds into the movie, I was hooked:
“Because of our tradition, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years….and because of our tradition, every one of us knows who he is and what God expects us to do.” – Tevye
As I heard Tevye say the above, I had a thought that I often have had. I believe that as our people have lost more and more of our traditions, we have begun floundering around–desperately in need of anchors. I am not Jewish, but when I was a child, my family had traditions that were crucial to my becoming who I am today. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Fourth of July, and Birthdays were celebrated the same way year after year, and somehow my knowing that it would always be that way comforted me. I grieve that our traditions changed. Of course, in Fiddler, the family lost many of their traditions, too. Somehow, Hollywood was able to mitigate the damage of that family’s loss of traditions. I am not sure that my family, in real life, has done so well.
And when the family gathered around the table for the Sabbath Prayer, I wept. Until that point, I was only half-watching Fiddler, but as I heard that blessing once more, I knew that I myself needed a blessing and that taking a moment for this movie could be part of my being blessed.
Even if the rest of the movie was a flop, the wedding scene and Sunrise Sunset would turn the production into an award winner. That has to be one of the most touching and memorable songs that I have ever heard. I have always liked Sunrise Sunset, but as I began watching my own children grow, the song took on an entirely different depth for me.
As I said before, during the course of the movie Fiddler of the Roof, several traditions break down.At the wedding celebration, men and women danced with each other–denying the tradition of men’s dancing with men and vice-versa. Young men and young women forego the matchmatker and choose their own spouses. They even vow to marry without the father’s permission. As arranged marriages are replaced by marriages based on love, Tevye asks Tzeitel if she loves him. An important question is raised:
Ultimately, Chava totally defines the family and marries outside her faith. Tevye grieves but swears that Chava is dead to him. There is no greater pain for a parent, than to be cut completely off from his child–regardless of the circumstances. The loss is incomparable.
And then, to make matters worse, the Jews are ordered to leave their homeland:
In the end, it is Tevye who refuses to recognize his estranged daughter.
“Some are drven away by edicts; other by silence.” – Mordcha
©Jacki Kellum March 21, 2o16