Fiddler on the Roof

fiddler at sunset

“Because of our traditions, everyone knows who he is and what God expects him to do. Tradition, tradition … tradition!”

The music was a bit dated for my taste, but the message is timeless. The movie is about family, community, relationships, culture, politics, change, and of course, tradition. It is about a poor Jewish milkman in Russia during the early 1900s who has five daughters. His father’s heart compels him to marry them off to good and capable, if not rich, husbands, but his good intentions for them are thwarted. Each one of his daughters represents the economic, political, and religious change of that generation. Throughout the movie, the foundation of his very identity is challenged as the milkman consistently makes difficult choices between an unquestioning belief in tradition and a necessary paradigm shift in his worldview. It is a humorous yet profound look at what links family culture with changing beliefs in tradition and how these shape an individual’s choices. I was especially touched by scenes where the milkman carries on a conversation with God, always petitioning, constantly complaining, occasionally questioning, sometimes doubting, but never despairing. The movie reminds me again of the resilience of the human spirit. We hold on to what we know to be stable and true, but the world is capricious and unpredictable — change is inevitable. If there is one thing I learned from the movie, it is that we are the mercy of unknown forces in this world. However, with faith and love and hope, we can overcome. It is the gift of a gracious God to an otherwise fragile spirit.

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