Traditioooon! TRADITION!

Once upon a time, long ago in a small town called Anatevka, lived a dairyman named Tevye along with his wife and his daughters.  Like his father, grandfather and generations of ancestors before him, Tevye is certain that he will select upstanding, pious and respectable husbands for his daughters just as his own parents had selected a wife for him. Things have always been this way and he and his family are a mere link in a chain with their destinies determined generations before they had even been born.  Or so he thinks until his eldest daughter Tzeitel rejects the match that he had made for her and instead chooses Motel, a different upstanding, pious and respectable husband. Tevye is devastated and outraged by his daughter’s audacity to slap tradition in the face. After some soul searching, he accepts the situation and allows them to marry. Shortly thereafter, his second daughter, Hodel, follows in her sister’s footsteps and falls in love with a man named Perchik, who is moving to Kiev to fight in the revolution. Tevye forbids them to marry, but they inform him that they do not seek his permission in the first place. After some more anguish followed by some more introspection, Tevye concludes that the world must be changing and there is not much that he can do to stop it.  When Tevye’s third daughter, Chava, elopes with a gentile named Fyetka, the chain of tradition breaks for good. To add insult to injury, around the same time, the entire Jewish population of his village is evicted and must find new homes. The story ends with his daughters’ straying from tradition and the Jewish population of Anatevka being herded out of their homes. While we do not know what happens to Tevye’s family next, we assume that it is grim.

Now replace Tevye with the Queen, Tzeitel and Motel with Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Hodel and Perchik with Prince William and Kate Middleton, and Chava and Fyedka with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Replace Jewish life in Anatevka with hundreds of years of the British monarchy and the expulsion from the town with globalism and social media. Sound familiar?  Each Royal Wedding broke tradition and was considerably less traditional than the last, thereby making the last one conventional in comparison. As much as Mummy doesn’t like the Royal her son brought home, that’s nothing compared to the non-Royal her grandson fell in love with, which is nothing compared to the non-white (gasp!) American (double gasp!) that her younger grandson just married.

Times are indeed changing. While we now know what happened to the Jewish communities in the Pale of Settlement, no one knows what the future will be for the Royal Family or for the Jews today who break tradition by living a life that is different than that of their parents. We are living in an increasingly globalized and digitalized society and while the world continues to grow smaller, the Jewish world grows more divisive and fragmented. We owe it to ourselves and to our children to find a balance between tradition and love for our family and community and not lose what matters to us most.

About the Author
Elisheva Hecht is a researcher, writer and translator who lives in Jerusalem with her husband, toddler and dog. Her hobbies include current events, people watching, Zumba, and reading Al-Jazeera.
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