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"Fiddler on the Roof": Disobeying Our Father

The movie Fiddler on the Roof is about a poor Jewish father's struggle to cling to tradition in an ever-changing world. The main character, Tevye, is a father of five girls who scrapes out a meager living delivering milk. Most troubling for Tevye are the choices his daughters make concerning marriage. Tradition dictated that marriages would be arranged. But Tevye's oldest daughter desires to choose her own husband. After much discussion, Tevye reluctantly agrees.

Tevye's second daughter, Hodel, decides that she, too, will choose her own husband, a young revolutionary named Perchik. Perchik has no use for tradition, and, true to his character, asks Hodel to marry him without consulting Tevye. Hodel and Perchik are radiant with glee; the sun is the only thing brighter than the newly engaged couple as they stroll hand in hand down an old dirt road. Their countenances change quickly, however, as they unexpectedly run into Tevye. Tevye looks askance at the two lovers holding hands as he sets down his cart.

Perchik, nervous, begins the awkward conversation. "I have some bad news," Perchik tells Tevye. "I must leave here."

"When?" asks Tevye, looking truly dismayed.

Smiling, Perchik tells Tevye, "You'll have to congratulate me!"

Tevye broadly smiles and extends his hand to shake Perchik's hand before he hears the news. "What for?" Tevye asks, shaking Perchik's hand vigorously.

Perchik drops the bomb: "We are engaged!"

Immediately Tevye pulls his hand, and his smile quickly turns to a glower. "Oh, no, you're not," says Tevye. He says to his daughter, "I know you like him and he likes you, but you're going away, Perchik, and, [Hodel], you're staying here. So have a nice trip, Perchik, and I hope you'll be very happy, and my answer is no!"

A tearful Hodel pleads with her father, but Tevye stands firm in his decision. All of the bickering quickly ceases, however, when Perchik declares, "But, Tevye, we are not asking for your permission, only your blessing." Tevye seems barely aware of his surroundings as he attempts to absorb what Perchik has just said.

Astonished, Tevye looks at the couple and asks, "You're not asking for my permission?"

Hodel responds, "But we would like your blessing, Papa."

"I can't believe my ears," says Tevye. "My blessing? For what? For going over my head? Impossible! At least with Tzietel and Motel they asked me. They begged me. But now, if I like it or not, you marry him?"

In a similar way, we may deal with God as Perchik dealt with Tevye. We ask for our Father's blessing rather than his permission.

Content: Rated G

Elapsed Time: Measured from the beginning of the opening credit, this scene begins at 2:00:06 and ends at 2:02:44.

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