Fiddler on the Roof is my favorite musical. It will always hold a special place in my heart.
Fiddler is about crossing the line. In the musical, it’s referred to as “Tradition”. Tradition is what helps the little community of Anatevka survive. They cook, clean, sew, barter, and live life in a certain way. Why? As Tevye will freely admit, “I don’t know.” It’s tradition.
But in the musical, Tevye must consider this traditional line. As the father of five daughters, one by one the three eldest want to marry, and one by one Tevye must consider the line of tradition. How far is he willing to go? Will he step over the line? One of the most powerful scenes of any movie is the scene where his third daughter, Chava is begging him to acknowledge her marriage outside of the faith. Tevye reasons back and forth with himself, using the phrase, “…on the other hand…”
He crossed the line with his two eldest daughters. He broke from tradition. But this is too much. This line he cannot cross. The music swells and he turns his back on his daughter while shouting, “NO! There is no other hand.”
And yet at the end of the movie, we receive a hint that Tevye is willing to cross even this line for the love of his daughter.
There are a lot of lines that shouldn’t be crossed. These lines allow us to work and live in peace. But every once in a while we realize society has created a line in the sand that exists only because of tradition. As society matures, we come to understand that some lines shouldn’t exist.
Sattelite, by Rise Against, is a favorite song of late. One line states, “You have to cross the line just to remember where it lays.”
I think I’d modify that sentiment just a little. But first I want to show you one of my favorite Normal Rockwell paintings.
So here is my final thought:
Sometimes we must cross the line; not to rebel, or to make a point, but to determine for ourselves if the line should even exist in the first place.