“Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as… as… as a fiddler on the roof!” – Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof
46 years ago, Joseph Stein introduced us to Tevye and the humor, sarcasm, wit and spirit of a Russian Jewish village. Under the yoke of oppression, the danger or revolution, and the most frightening situation of all, being a parent marrying off a child, Tevye walks us through his life. But in one of his most famous quotes, aside from how he always says “On the other hand….” is when asked how he balances all the danger and strife, he simply replies “Tradition!”
I guess it is only fair, then, that on a recent Russian funeral service, I was reminded of Tevye. Not so much for the oppression or revolution, but for the tradition. For you see, a Russian funeral service is a family affair. Women wear their headscarves and dresses while the men wear ties and firmly shake your hand. Black is the color of the day and regardless of your station in life, a funeral is an event to be attended. The focal point of the funeral; the person who died is center stage, dressed and prepared for viewing so all can not only say goodbye, but acknowledge that death is personal to us all. Even at the cemetery, in almost 100 degree heat, humidity and sun, the full prayers are said and the proper time taken to say goodbye.
And in the end, a group of children sit and watch the casket closed and lowered into the grave as the adults shake hands and discuss where they will meet for the meal.
Death is no stranger to these kind people, their tradition ensures that. I have also come to believe that is how they deal so well with the personal challenges that come their way in life. I think at times, as we strive to progress and innovate, we lose sight of that anchor. As Tevye would say, “on the other hand… it is about balance… it is about tradition”.
What traditions do you have and what will you pass on as you take time today to live, laugh and love?