Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fiddler On The Roof: Sabbath Prayer

The Sabbath Prayer from the film, Fiddler on the Roof (1971). This is a modern version of the prayer usually said as part of the Friday evening ritual ushering in Shabbat, the weekly Sabbath. It calls upon God, in his mercy and compassion, to keep and protect the Jewish people from any harm and, equally important, to not stray from the Jewish traditions found in the Torah, Talmud and its long tradition. This prayer acts as a nice counterpoint to the tension preceding it, reflecting on the normal emotions often found in families, Jewish families proving no exception.


The film is based on the stage musical (1965) which itself is based on the stories (Tevye and Tevye and his Daughters) published by Yiddish-writer, Sholom Aleichem in 1894. Aleichem has been called the Russian Mark Twain for his use of irony and humour.

Although the film is set in pre-revolutionary czarist Russia of 1905, its significance is universal. Fiddler on the Roof touches upon all the universal values and virtues that are important for all humanity, including the fight for freedom, equality, individual dignity and imagination. this becomes particularly poignant when under the yoke of oppression of a powerful and immoral State that fails to protect all of its inhabitants.

That bring said, I wanted to post this video clip for a positive reason, and this musical clip from one of my favourite films is a fitting reminder for what hopes we all carry in our hearts, sometimes secretly. This is not sentimental mush, but a view of life that carries with it dreams, hopes and happiness in the midst of struggles for survival that many, if not, most of us face daily.

And by survival I mean a survival with all the universal virtues noted above. Otherwise, it's not truly life, but mere existence. But we continue on, not giving up, playing music, like a fiddler on the roof, As is noted in Wikipedia: "The musical's title comes from the painting The Fiddler (1912) by Marc Chagall, one of many surreal paintings he created of Eastern European Jewish life, [which] often included a fiddler."

And, like the fiddler playing on the roof, life marches forward with joy and tradition, despite the very precariousness of it. Issac Stern plays the violin cadenza in the movie. No doubt, life is full of sunrises and sunsets, each new day a new beginning, full of hopes and dreams.

Other songs popular in the movie, which touch on such themes as equality, freedom, happiness and individual dignity, and which have become classics, are If I Were a Rich Man, Lechaim,Tradition, and Matchmaker.


Sabbath Prayer
Music by Jerry Bock, Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick

May the Lord protect and defend you.
May He always shield you from shame.
May you come to be
In Israel a shining name.

May you be like Ruth and like Esther.
May you be deserving of praise.
Strengthen them, Oh Lord,
And keep them from the strangers' ways.
May God bless you and grant you long lives.
(May the Lord fulfill our Sabbath prayer for you.)
May God make you good mothers and wives.
(May He send you husbands who will care for you.)

May the Lord protect and defend you.
May the Lord preserve you from pain.
Favor them, Oh Lord, with happiness and peace.
Oh, hear our Sabbath prayer. Amen.