Fiddler on the Roof – Lessons in Jewish Culture

Fiddler on the Roof is probably my favorite musical. It’s not because it is the best musical ever produced, but because I’ve learned so much from it. Fiddler was perhaps my first introduction to traditional Jewish culture. Although the setting is in early 20th century Russia, many of the customs portrayed in the musical date to ancient times. I was reminded of Fiddler as I wrote a blog on Bible Study: putting things in context.

I have the DVD, but just wanted to hear some of the songs. I thought you might enjoy some of them as well. So, here’s a medley of songs from Fiddler on the Roof with a brief explanation of how things fit in to traditional Jewish culture:

Matchmaker – arranged marriage

Arranged marriage was a long-standing tradition in Jewish culture. The Yenta was the matchmaker. Joseph and Mary’s marriage was arranged. That tradition is pretty much history now, but here are the wishes of a young bride to be:

Love and the Purpose of Marriage

In Genesis 2 God established the covenant of marriage. He did not base it on the romantic concept many have when entering into marriage today, but He did anticipate love in marriage as He did in all human relationships. Here, Tevye and Golde discuss love for the first time after 25 years of marriage:

Did you see how two have become one?

Dreams and Visions

Dreams and visions have long-held an important place in Jewish culture. Here, Tevye uses this to the advantage of his daughter in a changing world:

Persecution and Diaspora

The Hebrews and Jews have long faced persecution. Often it has resulted in captivity, exile or dispersion. Just as it occurred in ancient Israel and Judah, it happened in 20th century Russia:


Traditions exist in all cultures. Sometimes we don’t even know how traditions got started. Here Tevye sings about the centrality of tradition to Jewish culture:

OK, this has been one long blog if you’ve listened to all the music. If you’ve never seen Fiddler on the Roof or want to see it again, it’s well worth the DVD rental.

Alive in The Word

About aliveintheword

Missouri, USA Married to Marty, 45 years 2 sons (with 2 daughers-in-law) and 2 granddaughters Life dedicated to serving Jesus Christ and delivering the Good News
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6 Responses to Fiddler on the Roof – Lessons in Jewish Culture

  1. Thank you for this wonderful post. I saw Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway in New York many years ago with my parents and sister. I am Jewish and this served as an education for me. It helped me understand my heritage. I listen to the songs occasionally and love everyone.

    • Thanks for your comment. I’ve found that learning the history/traditions related to the foundations of my faith, both Jewish and Christian, provides a much deeper understanding of my faith.

      Shalom, Art

  2. granbee says:

    As I read through this enriching post on Jewish culture and Old Testament teachings, I could not help but remember those writings of St. Paul in Romans when he tells us that we are “grafted” into the root of Jessee, we are adopted as full members of God’s Chosen People (the Jewish people) by the act of Jesus’ death and resurrection. As such, we should fully inform ourselves about the Jewish history, from start with Abraham through to this very moment!

    • Thanks, granbee. I think we can expand this to all of human history, studying it while keeping Biblical history at the center (kind of like the keel of a boat) of our study.

      Far too often, we study our Bibles and Biblical history as though it is independent of “everything else.” TRUTH is, it’s the core of “everything else.” We can’t fully understand the Bible unless we understand it’s context… and vice verse.

      Shalom, Art
      Alive in the Word

  3. ptl2010 says:

    Thank you Art. I enjoyed the refresher.

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