(#30) Tevye’s View

In contrast, or complement, to the historical and geographic view of the last stage, here is a literary/imaginative look at the journeying of the biblical Abraham and Sarah.


Booking Passage: Exile and Homecoming in the Modern Jewish Imagination. Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000.

Tevye the Dairyman and The Railroad Stories . Sholem Aleichem (Sholem Rabinowitz, 1859–1916). Translated by Hillel Halkin. Random House.

Dov Sadan, Dan Miron, Benjamin Harshav, and Ruth Wisse, among other contemporary scholars, have debated the nature and function of Tevye’s malapropism, misquotes, and misprisions. Michael Stern takes the discussion one step further by closely examining some of the biblical and liturgical intertexts in his essay “Tevye’s Art of Quotation,” Prooftexts 6, no 1. (January 1986): 79-96. The significant shift in meaning that takes plac ein this and other passages between the biblical phrase “el ha-aretz asher areka” (to the land which I will show thee) and Tevye’s “wherever your eyes will take you” (which Halkin changes in the English translation to “wherever your legs will carry you”) could, he says, be a gloss on the difference between Abraham’s mission, “assured of God’s watchful protection,” and Tevye’s, enacted in its absence (p.94). But it can also mark the shift from directed to aimless movement, as discussed later in this chapter. — end note, p.280, Ezrahi

As with “I’m a real al tashlikheynu le’eys ziknoh” in the passage above, Halkin’s liberal translations always maintain the spirit of the original; here, the translation also tends to accentuate the tension between the explicit textual references to a physical return to the holy Land and Tevye’s interpretive strategies that reinforce exile as the normative condition of the Jew. — end note, p.280, Ezrahi

I had a surprisingly difficult time finding a text and commentary for “Sh’ma [shema] Koleinu” — which Tevye “quotes” in the passage discussed. Tevye refers to the line from Psalm 71 — “don’t cast me away in my old age.” Lots of musical settings, but no straightfoward commentary. So here’s a few possibly helpful notes:

  • a link to Psalm 71:9 “al tashlikheynu…” with commentary at Sefaria,
  • translations of Psalm 71:9 at Bible Hub
  • a single page from Mahzor Lev Shalem showing the prayer in its Yom Kippur setting —

Published by vspatz

Virginia hosts "Conversations Toward Repair" on We Act Radio, manages WeLuvBooks.org, blogs on general stuff a vspatz.net and more Jewish topics at songeveryday.org and Rereading4Liberation.com

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