“TRADITION” (Fiddler on the Roof)

  • “A fiddler on the roof? Sounds crazy, no,?  But in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof,
  • trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck.
  • It isn’t easy. You may ask, why do we stay up there if it’s so dangerous?
  • We stay because Anatevka is our home…And how do we keep our balance?
  • That I can tell you in one word…Tradition.

Because of our tradition, we’ve kept for many, many years.Here in Anatevka we have traditions for everything…how to eat, how to sleep, even, how to wear clothes.

For instance, we always keep our heads covered and always wear a little prayer shawl…This shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, how did this tradition start?

I’ll tell you – I don’t know. But it’s a tradition.Because of our traditions, everyone knows who he is and what God expects him to do.”

Fiddler on the Roof has been a favorite of mine for centuries. It speaks so well of the cultural development and maintenance of traditions and the pain of change – of new ways supplanting the old. It speaks of tribalism – of outsiders and insiders – those with power and those without. The pogroms of Russia and the Holocaust of Germany  speak to us of how the more powerful tribe feels threatened by those who are different; with different traditions. Racism is much a symptom of the same fear that infects a dominant tribe. They look different, they act different, they speak different, they have different traditions and cultural myths or stories. “They are an infection that must be eliminated or they will contaminate us and destroy our way of life – how often throughout history this has been the case. To a great degree, this fear has been realized when more powerful tribes invade and destroy older and more established traditions, such as the Europeans invading the Americas, Africa and Asia, and working to impose their cultural traditions on others, less powerful.

Today, as we experience the growth of the human population and the growing complexity of globalization, we can see the  impact of these increasing numbers on the total environment of our planet. We are experiencing change or complexification at an accelerating rate as tribes or population struggle together for long term survival. Our Cosmos and our Galaxies exist in a constant state of flux – of radical change. Life on our planet earth has evolved over billions of year in the midst of struggle;  a constant process of death and resurrection. We develop traditions to help us to cope with this constant transformation going on around us and within us. We look for stability in the middle of becoming.

Our fears of the unknown, of death shape our lives. On one hand, we long for the past that is mostly imaginary, and fear the future which is the unknown. We use traditions developed by the various tribes over the centuries, to establish a sense of security that ours is the right way and theirs is therefore the wrong way and therefore threatening.

Poor Tevye: His world was collapsing around him. His children were going agains tradition; he and his friends were losing their homes, their way of life. Everything was falling apart. The ground was shifting under his feet. I think that we all feel this way at times. We discover that ultimately, we are not in charge. This blow to our ego is powerful and at times devastating.  And yet, life itself is the greatest teacher, when we allow ourselves to see – to understand that we are blind. Lord, help me to see, is our cry. Perhaps one of the most difficult tasks that we are given by life – is allowing ourselves to see. We hang on to our long held traditions and convictions. They possess us and we are not free. Freedom and sight go together. When we are able to let go of our blindness, we are transformed; we have that epiphany or AHA! moment. We learn as Saint Paul learned, that we “see through the glass darkly” and that no one of us possesses the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We see a little bit and presume that we see the whole.

When traditions are broken or even shaken, we have choices; we can allow life to transform us or we can shrivel up in anger and frustration and die. We are called to life; we are given the gift of life; we are called to share life with others along the way.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s