When reading the book of Job these past couple of days, I can’t help but think of my favorite musical, Fiddler on the Roof. While comparing the two, I find many parallels between the life of Job and the life of the musical’s man character, Tevye (although they do slightly contradict each other in small details, such as Tevye is a poor milkman whereas we know Job to be a rich man). In the book of Job, we are all knowledgeable of God giving charge to Satan over Job’s life, proving how faithful and what a good man Job is to his God. Satan turns Job’s life upside down and takes his family and everything from him. Later we see Job conversing with friends, who believe Job must have done something wrong for God to wreak this havoc upon him, when Job has done absolutely nothing. In losing both friends and family Jobs cries out “All my bosom friends detest me, Those I love have turned against me” (Job 19:19). He wallows in pity and cannot figure what he has done to upset God.
In Fiddler on the Roof, several times Tevye has a monologue in which he speaks to God about all his troubles. Tevye says to God, “Troubles…Troubles….That’s all you ever hear from me. But who else can we simple people bring our troubles to?”
In this musical, Tevye is a devout Jewish man. He lives in poverty but loves the life he has in his village and all the traditions that come along with their religion. In the beginning, Tevye tells his audience:
“…you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn’t easy. You may ask ‘Why do we stay up there if it’s so dangerous?’ Well, we stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition!”
Things start to turn on him. Tradition after tradition become broken, mainly by his own children. Just as Job loses his family, so does Tevye. As Tevye mentioned, they keep their balance through tradition; he loses his balance (and his family) as his daughters become their own matchmaker, finding themselves husbands without prior approval from their father. Tzeitel and Motel pledged they would wed; Hodel and Perchik get engaged and ask for Tevye’s blessing rather than approval (then moving away to Siberia); and then Chava and Fyedka run away and get married by the [christian] Priest (this resulting in Tevye’s disowning of his daughter). (for the purposes of this post, there’s no need to watch further than 5min and 16s)
Tevye (and Job) not only lose their family, but also their friends and their home/possessions. Tevye loses his good friend, the constable, when told that everyone is evicted through government orders and must sell their house and leave in three days. I guess Tevye felt betrayed that a friend would allow such a thing to happen, but as the constable says (after wreaking havoc at Tzeitel’s wedding), “Orders are orders…Understand?” I am reminded by the actions of Job’s friends when they tell him to stop lying and that clearly Job did something wrong and God is now punishing him for it. Job says to Eliphaz in reply:
…I have followed in His tracks, Kept His way without swerving, I have not deviated from what His lips commanded; I have treasured His words more than my daily bread. He is one; who can dissuade Him? Whatever He desires, He does. For He will bring my term to an end, But He has many more such at His disposal. Therefore I am terrified at His presence (Job 23: 11-15).
Throughout the entire movie, Tevye realizes all the changes going on before him. He knows something is going on up there with God. He sees God a mischievous, like a kid with an ant and a magnifying glass, Tevye being the ant. During one of his monologues to God, Tevye says, “Sometimes I think, when it gets too quiet up there, You say to Yourself, “What kind of mischief can I play on My friend Tevye?””
Both the story of Tevye and the story of Job are true tests of a man’s faith and devotion to God. God has “giveth and taketh away” from both men. Were they deserving? Probably not but who are we to say. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. That being said, I’d like to end with my favorite quote from the movie:
“I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?”