Identity and Relationships
I think about how my world has changed since I was a child. Family traditions, traditions with friends, were liberally scattered throughout my life. Those handed down were savored and serious. Silly ones came about doing something spontaneous. The simple, soft, and sentimental still make me smile. They weave together the relationships and interactions that formed who I am.
But times change. Traditions seem harder to hold onto.
Once extended families held us closer to home, closer together. Now we are more isolated from each other. We change jobs. We move houses. We marry later. We have smaller families. As a culture, we are alone more often and longer.
We leave behind some traditions. National traditions are being questioned or hidden in respect for those who don’t feel reflected within them or who find fault with the values of a given tradition.
Who We Are and What We Value
Traditions take time and investment. Their very nature requires a buy-in at some level. They are a critical cultural benchmark of who we are and what we value.
In the script to “Fiddler on the Roof,” Tevye explains the importance of tradition to a culture.
A fiddler on the roof…
Sounds crazy, no?
But here, in our little village of Anatevka,
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!
Because of our traditions,
we’ve kept our balance for many, many years.
Here in Anatevka,
we have traditions for everything.
How to sleep.
How to eat.
How to work.
How to wear clothes. . . .
we always keep our heads covered,
and always wear a little prayer shawl.
This shows our constant devotion to God.
You may ask,
how did this tradition get started?
I’ll tell you.
I don’t know.
But it’s a tradition.
And because of our traditions,
every one of us knows who he is
and what God expects him to do. . . .
Without our traditions,
our lives would be as shaky as
As a fiddler on the roof!
Are we leaving behind traditions without replacing them? Are we leaving behind our sense of self with them? Are we losing track of what we value? What traditions hold us together still?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
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