Wednesday, December 9, 2015


That song was so off. Tevye lumps together mitzvos with minhagim into one category, whereas only the latter applies. I suppose "Commandments!" is less catchy.

To our benefit or detriment, Fiddler on the Roof is for the rest of the world an image of orthodox Jewish life. 
I know a non-Jewish woman who expects all aspects of Judaism to perfectly mimic Fiddler, to the point that a man's Shabbos bekechel should be patched and worn. She calls shadchanim or any female over 50 (because they must also be matchmakers) "Yentas." Such as, "She will be your Yenta."

R2 adores "If I Were a Rich Man" strictly because of the mooing cow at the end.  "Moo the cow!"
As a kid I was terrified of the Dream scene, and even now, after seeing it, I can't bear the dark. The kinfauna handle it better than me, actually. 
I once saw a clip of Zero Mostel as Tevye, and he was terrible. Not heimish at all. His "bida bida bida bum"s were more like "hipa hipa hipa pum"s.

I saw Alfred Molina on Broadway, and he was  nearly as good as Topol (nearly as good, but Alfred Molina can play anything). Time magazine had a review, and I always remember this bit:
But when his third daughter chooses a husband outside her religion, he can debate no more. "There is no other hand!" he cries. From Mostel's mouth, it was a howl to the heavens; Molina spits it out abruptly, angrily. He's not suffering for all Jews; he's one man drawing an ethical line in the sand.
Topol's Tevye had a similar reaction. He roars "No! No! No!" and angrily stomps away, closing his ears to his daughter's weeping. I always found it interesting how Tevye, an unlearned man, was able to accommodate his other daughter's unorthodox (not unobservant, but non-PC) marriages, knowing of no halachic reason to say no, whereas here he is firm. 

Here is my favorite, "Sabbath Prayer." My family doesn't bensch the children every Friday night, but many families do. It never fails to make me sniffle.


Mr. Cohen said...

Sarah said...

I played Fruma Sarah in a kids' drama production of Fiddler and it was the best role! But I did feel bad when a little girl told me a few days later that she'd been having nightmares every night since the production because of me...
Also, it took me years to realize this, but Fiddler is actually very anti-frum, as you touch upon. Since it's only loosely based on Sholom Aleichem's original stories (Tevye the Dairyman series), I've wondered whether it was a reactionary script to the guilt of massively assimilating Jews from Eastern Europe. It was first produced in 1964, after all.

Altie said...

You are famous in my phone, every day your blog posts come up in my news feed as "stories you may be interested in". So when I saw the title I immediately thought of Tevya before even opening it. I love where he talks about tzitzit and says, " I'll tell you where it comes from... I don't know." That movie will always be a classic.

Mr. Cohen said...

“No one expected Henry to survive one day;
instead he lived for 8 days.
It was sort of like the Chanukah miracle.”

SOURCE: Mila Kunis in: The Angriest Man in Brooklyn, a movie released 2014 May 23, starring Robin Williams and Mila Kunis

Princess Lea said...

Sarah: You were Fruma Sarah? Rooooocks. I would totally play her; I think my voice can go that high.

I never read the original tale, so I took a peek at the summary online. Apparently, after Tevye banishes Chava and is about to be kicked out of town by the Cossacks, Chava leaves her husband to join her family in exile. In the movie version, they have it that the intermarried couple leaves in order to be considerate, and Tevye backwards forgives them, kinda.

The screenwriters and producers were all non-frum Jews; they couldn't, they just couldn't, let the film be a complete and total glowing testament to Orthodox life.

Altie: Oh, my, I'm blushing. Thank your phone for me!

That scene is also perfect example of Judaism: We do things that we sometimes know the reasons for, and sometimes not, yet it's all good.

Steve said...

Many people consider Herschel Bernardi to have been the best Tevya. Some clips are available on YouTube.

Princess Lea said...

Gave him a peek. But I'm a Topol gal, till the end.