Le’ Chaim

Le’Chaim! (le’khiam)

Or… To Life!

Fiddler on the Roof was on PBS last night. For the first time, I was able to watch it with someone who had never seen or heard of it.  I didn’t think it was possible for someone in this world to NOT know the song, If I Were a Rich Man. My 12 year old thought I was nuts when I did Topol/Tevye’s dance in the barn scene when he sang it… arms up forming a U, one step – stomp, shake the shoulders, stomp, shake. “If I were a rich man…” I sang and she just shook her head.

“Never heard it,” she said. “Fortunately.”


Okay, maybe my version of it wasn’t so entertaining but I wasn’t going to let the opportunity of her seeing it slip by. I prepared her first, telling her how I saw it for the first time when I was only six. It was the year it came out and I’d watched it every time it was on TV since then.

In 1991, Topol revived his role as Tevye for a Broadway run. My husband surprised me with tickets and I could not believe I was going to see this man LIVE in this role after twenty years of watching him on TV. Well… when he walked onto the stage I was floored. I felt that rush of excitement when something special happens, and I gasped in awe and delight. I was the first to stand and start clapping but the rest of the audience followed immediately, like a wave of welcome to this star in his perfect role. That moment was 20 years in the making for me and 17 years later, it’s still fresh in my mind.

Daughter loved the movie and Topol. We laughed and we cried. We talked about what was happening and why and it fit in perfectly with all she’s learned in Social Studies. It was lost on me as a child – I was half her age when I first saw it. I knew people were happy and that they were sad. I didn’t know why some people wanted to make others cry or why they made them leave their homes and… frankly, I still don’t know why that is.

Fiddler puts the sensation back after being desensitized by brutal movies and TV shows, extreme violence on YouTube and video games. Fiddler reminds us how we’re really all very much the same… and how, despite the precariousness of life and living, we somehow balance it all and continue on… like the fiddler, balancing and fiddling on the roof.


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