Tuesday, 5 February 2013

On the other hand...

As a child I often watched the magnificent 1971 Fiddler on the Roof with Chaim Topol's Tevye capturing my attention and imagination.

There was a particular recurring theme of the film that has become something of a mantra for me in recent times:

Over and over again, as I work through multiple questions about life and particularly religion and faith, I keep  making myself say 'on the other hand...' Any time I find an article, blog or source that causes either a strengthening or undermining of spiritual certainty I can hear Tevye's willingness to consider 'the other hand.' For Tevye, the other hand means letting go of some of his Jewish matchmaking tradition, the opportunity to marry his eldest daughter, Tzeitel, to a wealthy neighbour and letting her marry, into poverty, but for love.

Throughout the film Tevye is faced with the challenge of change. He accepts his second daughter Hodel's relationship with the radical Perchik, who has earlier broken with tradition by dancing with Hodel at Tzeitel's wedding party.

Tevye's final dilemma is when his youngest daughter, Chava, falls in love with a Russian Orthodox Christian and asks for her father's blessing to marry.

In a highly emotional scene Tevye asks himself again, is there another hand. It brings tears to my eyes when I recognise the anxiety of the impact of his choice on the faith and tradition he holds dear compared to the love and care he has for his daughter and family.

"Accept them, how can I accept them? Can I deny everything I believe in? On the other hand, can I deny my own daughter? On the other hand, how can I turn my back on my faith, my people? If I try and bend that far, I will break. One the other hand... No! There is no other hand!”

And so I find myself continually considering "the other hand." I wonder how far I could bend before breaking. There are many other hands. I don't know on which hand I will rest.

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