The movie, Fiddler on the Roof, is 45 years old. Winner of three academy awards, the movie tells the story of a Jewish family in Russia of the early 20th century. The Tevye family is economically poor. But Tevye is a god-fearing man. He has a lot of questions to ask Yahweh but all in a childlike trust tinged with the adult’s irony. He follows the rules and traditions of his orthodox religion as meticulously as he can. When his daughters fall in love one by one against the tradition of their religion, Tevye is shocked initially but bows to the love that shines in the eyes of his daughters.
Finally, the family has to leave the place like the other Jews who are all evacuated. One of the many evacuations that the Jews faced throughout their history which goes back to the biblical Exodus. The eponymous Fiddler on the Roof is a symbol of the precarious situation of the Jews. Perched perilously on the sloping roof, the fiddler has to produce his music which is his duty on the earth while at the same time negotiate the fears and dangers that accompany his situation. He is the symbol of the Jew of the pre-Israel days.
The movie is a musical classic which can be enjoyed even today by anyone. Every frame is a delight to watch. Every dialogue warms the cockles of our hearts. Like the finest art, it leaves us with haunting thoughts and emotions. It evokes compassion in our hearts. It refines our souls.
I’m presenting here just one song, one of my all-time favourites. If I were a rich man: that’s the song. Tevye thinks that if he were a rich man, he could not only build a big house with many staircases including one that leads nowhere but “just for show,” but also have his wife in a happy mood strutting around like a peacock and screaming at her servants. Important men in town would crowd around him calling him “Reb Tevye, Reb Tevye,” seeking answers to their problems, and “it won’t make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong / When you’re rich they think you really know.” He would be able to sit in the best part of the synagogue and discuss the scriptures with learned men, if he were a rich man.
Finally he asks Yahweh if it would have destroyed some great eternal plan of His had He made Tevye a really rich man.
Today is Easter. Here, through this post, I’m celebrating the “resurrection” of Jesus, a Jew who tried to reform his religion without success. Like Tevye, I have infinite questions to ask God if He would ever care to listen.