Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Thoughts from "Fiddler on the Roof"

Sunday night we watched Fiddler on the Roof with our family. For my two youngest kids, it was their first time seeing it. The rest of us have seen it a few times, but it had been a long time. We've been singing songs from the musical for a few months now, all gathered around the piano, and my younger kids were pretty excited to see what it was all about. What an experience! 

What did I learn from my re-watch of Fiddler this time? Quite a lot, actually! Here are just a few of the things that stood out to me when I watched it this time. 
  1. This movie is full of VERY catchy songs. The next morning after watching the movie, one of my sons (who, incidentally says he hates musicals) was whistling "Tradition" all morning. Hahaha. Today I'm still finding myself singing "To Life! To Life! L'Chiam!"
  2. I watched the movie with a slightly different viewpoint this time, seeing it from the perspective of a parent with "young adult" children. It portrays a very unique view of the way life used to be, with parents making so many decisions for their growing children. How difficult it must have been for those who wanted to do what was best for their children, but found themselves fighting between old traditions and the modern progress of the world. That is something we continue to struggle with today - keeping what's good from the past while embracing the improvements offered by the future. 
  3. This was the first time I really saw and understood the poignant message of the scene with Tevye and Lazar Wolf celebrating the marriage match they had just agreed upon in the local saloon. Notice that the Russian citizens are also there, congratulating them and singing and dancing with them. The people from both cultures had grown up in the same town - together but separate. They celebrate with each other and are happy for one another. However, later in the movie, political and religious pressure from the outside world tear their friendships apart, and eventually the entire community is broken up. It's a very powerful message reminding us to beware of the world pressuring us to abandon friendships because of differences. I believe the world would be a better place if everyone was more understanding of one another and worked together in love. 
  4. I was deeply touched by watching the way Tevye struggled with the conflicts between his traditional beliefs and his love for his daughters. Everything he did, all day long, was for his family. And though he spoke of wanting to be rich, it was obvious that what he cherished most was his family. It is difficult for the parents when their children make choices that are in conflict with what they think is best for them. Considering the time and place, I think these parents do a pretty good job of balancing the two. The ending, where he *kind of* makes peace with his youngest daughters is extremely touching. "And may God be with you" he says quietly under his breath...  
  5. Tevye's wife Golde is a funny character, speaking harshly all the time, and yet showing her love through her service. She works so hard every day to give the best to her husband and children. And I especially love the scene where Tevye and Golde sing about whether or not they love each other. Golde: "For 25 years I've lived with him, fought with him, starved with him... if that's not love, what is?" This reminds me of a quote I heard long ago that says, "Love is not a noun, it's a verb."  
Moving on. . . There are SO MANY great quotes in this movie! 

Here are just a few that make me LAUGH:
  • Tevye:  (To God) "It may sound like I'm complaining, but I'm not. After all, with Your help, I'm starving to death!"
  • Mordcha: "If the rich could hire others to die for them, we, the poor, would all make a nice living."
  • Tevye: "When I get angry, even flies don't dare to fly!"
  • Tevye: "Golde, I am the man in the family! I am the head of the house! And I want to see Motel's new machine now!" [looks inside Motel's house for barely a second] "Now let's go home!"
  • Tevye: [to God] "I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?"
Here are a few others that make me THINK:
  • Tevye to Chava: "As the Good Book says 'Each shall seek his own kind'. In other words, a bird may love a fish... but where would they build a home together?"
  • Motel/Tzeitel: "Even a poor tailor is entitled to some happiness!"
  • Tevye/Golde: [singing] "Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play? I don't remember growing older. When did they?"
My sons pretending to be fiddlers on our roof last spring. Who says we don't have fun around here?!? :) 
Here are some entertaining dialogues between characters:

Tevye & Mendel:
Tevye: As Abraham said, "I am a stranger in a strange land..."
Mendel: Moses said that.
Tevye: Ah. Well, as King David said, "I am slow of speech, and slow of tongue."
Mendel: That was also Moses.
Tevye: For a man who was slow of tongue, he talked a lot.

Perchik & Tevye:
Perchik: Money is the world's curse.
Tevye: May the Lord smite me with it! And may I never recover!

Perchik & Hodel:
Perchik: I'm a very good teacher.
Hodel: I heard that the Rabbi who must congratulate himself has a congregation of one.

Perchik, Tevye & Golde:
Perchik: Your daughter has a quick and witty tongue.
Tevye: Yes, the wit she gets from me. As the good book says...
Golde: The good book can wait, it's time for Sabbath!
Tevye: The tongue she gets from her mother.

Motel & Tevye:
Motel: You won't be sorry! You won't be sorry!
Tevye: I won't be sorry? I'm sorry already!

Discussion with the Rabbi:
Young Jewish Man: Rabbi, may I ask you a question?
Rabbi: Certainly, my son.
Young Jewish Man: Is there a proper blessing for the Tsar?
Rabbi: A blessing for the Tsar? Of course! May God bless and keep the Tsar... far away from us!

Final Thoughts:

There's not really a better way to sum it all up than to quote Tevye himself. There is so much meaning and so much symbolism in his words at the opening of the movie. The way we live our lives is so much based on the faith and traditions of our fathers. And yet we add our own experiences and modern ideas which give us new direction and help each generation to move forward with progress. I'll let Tevye finish off this blog post for me:

"A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But in our little village of Anatevka, every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn't easy. You may ask, why do we stay here if it's so dangerous? We stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: Tradition!"

"Because of our traditions, we have kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything: how to how to eat, how to sleep, how to wear clothes. For instance, we always keep our heads covered, and always wear a little prayer-shawl. This shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, how did this tradition start? I'll tell you. I don't know. But it's a tradition."

"And because of our traditions, every one of us knows who he is, and what God expects him to do. Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as... as... as a fiddler on the roof!"

Credits: For these quotes, I did a lot of cutting and pasting from wikiquote.org. If you want more good quotes and info about the movie, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiddler_on_the_Roof_(film).

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