There is probably no character in Jewish fiction more well known than Tevye the Dairyman. Fiddler on the Roof is one of the best known and most widely performed musicals of all time, and the film adaptation is the quintessential portrayal of shtetl life in American cinema.
But long before he sang his way into the hearts of theatergoers around the globe, Tevye was the protagonist of the great Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem’s most important short stories. At turns comedic, tragic, and wise, Tevye was the character in whom Sholem Aleichem poured the most of himself, and it was Tevye to whom he turned when he felt the urge to comment on the great issues facing the Jews of his day.
Tikvah Distinguished Senior Fellow Ruth Wisse has been teaching the tales of Tevye the Dairyman for decades, and she recently released a free online course that brings her lifetime of learning to computer screens everywhere. This week, we are rebroadcasting a conversation between Professor Wisse and Tikvah Executive Director Eric Cohen that takes a close look at the second story in the Tevye series, “Tevye Blows a Small Fortune.” They explore the character and values of Tevye and ask what this country Jew can teach us about rootedness, tradition, and faith.
If you enjoy this podcast, you can enroll in Professor Wisse’s free online course on Tevye the Dairyman at Tevye.TikvahFund.org.
Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.