Devotion to Traditions and the Importance of Jewish Continuity in ‘fiddler on the Roof’

Published: 2021-09-14 11:35:11
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“Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof.” – Tevye
In the shtetl, traditional Judaism and religious practice shape every aspect of life. The quote; “without tradition, our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof”, clearly demonstrates Tevye’s devotion to tradition and the importance of Jewish continuity. Tradition is life’s rulebook, “We have traditions for everything, how to eat, wear clothes, work”. An example of this is that throughout the week they wear normal clothes, except for Shabbat they dress in their best clothes, and have a special meal. This is an important tradition for Tevye and his family. “Because of our traditions we have kept a balance for many years”, this is what essentially kept Judaism alive and practiced. In the song, ‘tradition’, they talk about the roles of the different people of the family, and this in itself is a specific tradition that defines their Jewish lifestyle. Tevye fears, “what would we be without tradition?”. Specifically, he didn’t want to let his daughters marry out of traditional practice. The concept of a marriage diverted from the usual, is scary and goes against what the Jews had been doing forever.In the shtetl, most of the jobs revolve around farming, agriculture and basic trades. They do what they can to make a living, considering their circumstances of separation from the wider Russian community. Tevye is a milkman, who describes himself as being poor. He sings a song saying; “If he were a rich man”. The need and desire for a “small fortune” shows how much the Jews would like money and opportunities, that the shtetl cannot provide them. Tevye tells a story about how someone in the village claimed their horse was older than it was, you can assume this is for some extra money, proving yet again this desire for money. The butcher, Leizer Wolf is a man who is considered well off. We know this because Tevye is willing to let Tzeitl marry him, due to his economic stability. Instead of marrying Motl the tailor who isn’t as fortunate. Poor living qualities are displayed in their basic homes and clothing. The Jews were stable in their tradition, but I would describe majority of the Jews in the time as poor.
Tradition is a very important aspect of Jewish life for me. Whilst I might not be the most observant, I believe that the continuation of Judaism relies directly on the basis of tradition and customs. In my life Shabbat is very important. I do not strictly keep Shabbat, but every Friday night my entire family has a meal together. I believe that this is a great way of spending quality time with your family, but also putting Jewish life into a weekly routine. Celebration is an important aspect of Jewish life, and this is clearly shown in fiddler on the roof, in the way they celebrate over a marriage. Not much has changed since then, showing how essential and timeless it is to carry out and celebrate our traditions. I love going to seders and Rosh Ha Shana celebrations, I feel connected to my ancestors. These religious celebrations are direct transfers of tradition through the decades, and the responsibility to continue to pass these traditions on is a very rewarding and fulfilling experience.

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