We live in a world which continues to lay undue emphasis on certain traditions, especially those which have their roots in religion. Religion being regressive by nature, its traditions will continue to be in force even when the world will have evolved far beyond them scientifically and technologically. Most religious traditions are like the gargoyles erected on magnificent edifices: they may serve some supposed purposes hideous as they appear.
|A still from the movie
Tevye, the protagonist of the movie Fiddler on the Roof, faces the painful dilemma of having to make a choice between tradition and love. Three of his nubile daughters break the sacred traditions of their religion by falling in love with men of their choice. Tevye is shocked and infuriated each time. He asks his God, Yahweh, what to do. In doing so, he is breaking a sacred tradition himself: he is unseating the Rabbi from his sacred position as the mediator between Yahweh and his creature.
The hotline connection that Tevye has established with his God helps him understand his situation better. Each time a daughter of his breaks a tradition and his heart, he learns the lesson that the heart is far more powerful than any tradition however holy the latter may be. Love is more sacred than anything else. It is those who never learn that great lesson that convert religion into a weapon against communities of people.
The Jews were particularly targeted again and again by people who placed religion and its holy cows above people. Fiddler on the Roof ends with another Jewish exodus. The fleeing Tevye will ask the Fiddler on the Roof to join the refugees because metaphorically the plight of the Jews was no less precarious than that of the fiddler who balanced himself delicately on the sloping roof.
The movie was produced in 1971. I watched it for the first time in the early 1980s. I watched it again a number of times later and wouldn’t hesitate to watch it again if the opportunity turns up.
What fascinated me the most is Tevye’s childlike trust in his God even when he questions that God radically. I lost my trust in gods long ago. The protectors of holy cows today widen the chasm between God and me. Tevye is one movie character who remains deeply entrenched in my consciousness, maybe because his trust in God has something Romantic about it. It is untouched by the usual contaminations of religion. Love reigns supreme in Tevye’s understanding of God, in spite of the traditions of that religion which are deeply entrenched in his consciousness.
PS. Written for Indispire Edition 119: #Movies