When I first saw “Fiddler on the Roof,” I must have been a teenager. I was young, naïve, and had no idea what the future held in store. I related to the song “Matchmaker,” with ideal images of love floating through my head— hoping that someone would find me “a catch.” I also got a big kick out of “If I Were a Rich Man,” particularly the line about the one staircase going up, one staircase going down and the one just for show. Who needs two staircases? Or even three? I was perfectly happy with one!
And then, of course, there’s the whole concept of tradition—the values that are passed down to us from generation to generation. As I was still living with my parents, I was well aware of following those traditions by rote, how I was raised. While I never questioned, I also did not follow blindly; I was in the Jewish Day School system and was taught, more or less, the reasons why Orthodox Jews do what they do. I kept kosher, observed the Sabbath and was perfectly content doing so because it was a part of my identity.
Fast forward to seeing “Fiddler on the Roof” as an adult, nearly 30 years later. I found myself listening to Tevye lament about having five daughters and how he needed matches for those daughters—men who would take care of them financially and emotionally.
As a mother of sons, I chuckled at the thought of my “almost men” fulfilling those needs for someone’s daughters. All these years later, the matchmaker song just made me laugh. Ah, the ideals we set for what we think we want as a life partner, and then what we actual come home with. I always thought I would marry a tall, handsome doctor, one who would sweep me off of my feet.
In the end, I married a shorter lawyer, who though does not have the physical strength to carry me, apparently has the emotional strength to withstand my craziness. As for the staircases, I must know some really rich people, because a lot of them have two staircases. I guess the real kicker would be if they just had one for show.
Then, the song “Do You Love Me?” came on. Yup, that hit me right between the eyes. I looked at my husband and couldn’t believe that the curly haired boy I met when I was 13 is now the follicle-y challenged man that I have been married to for over 20 years. Not quite 25, but still.
It is amazing how the years change your perspective. Tevye and Golda met, according to the show, on their wedding day, and love came later. Nowadays, we marry because we are in love and hope that that love continues. Not an easy task.
And then, of course, come back the traditions. Our world has changed so much since this show first came out. What would Tevye say if one of his daughters wanted to marry someone else’s daughter? What would Yenta the Matchmaker ’s reaction be to that? There are those that remain firm in their belief systems, who refuse to budge in their ideology.
And then, there are those that allow their beliefs to expand and embrace with the changes that are presented to them. Whatever the case may be, it is important to keep traditions alive, keep our hearts open to love and acceptance, and remember that nothing is more important than drinking to life, l’chaim!