August 2022

Mazel & Mishagoss: Fiddler’s Fabulous (but Finicky!) Females


By Stephanie D. Lewis

In my last column, I dissected men from Fiddler on the Roof to see what kind of husbands they’d make. Now it’s time to see what would happen if you ‘fiddled’ around with Fiddler’s females. And what better place to start than Yente the matchmaker?

Be forewarned, if you’ve cast your eye on Yente, she’ll constantly lament her deceased husband Aaron (may he rest in peace) and how he couldn’t give her children. To tell you the truth, he hardly tried! And neither will you with Yente, a busybody who submerges herself in your business deeper than a woman dunks in a mikvah. To leave this relationship, pray Yente becomes overzealous in her career and suddenly decides to make a match for herself. Or one day she’ll lose her head altogether and a horse will kick it into the mud and goodbye Yente! Other than that, I’m sorry if you misunderstood, but you could get stuck for good!

We’ll skip over Golde since she’s obviously already married and focus on Tevye’s eldest daughter, Tzeitel. First of all, have patience with Tzeitel as she’ll need to correct everyone for misspelling her name. And she’s prone to role-playing. (No, not that kind!) But sometimes while doing laundry she’ll drape a scarf over her head and do a spot-on impersonation of Yente. You may even think you married a hobbling old lady but look at your fiancé’s eyes … so hopeful. Now look even closer at your fiancé’s eyes … she loves you, she wants you. Tradition!! There’s just one problem … Motel. You might’ve heard the rumor — Tzeitel and Motel gave each other a pledge! And from such children come other children. On the other hand, even a poor tailor is entitled to some happiness. Bottom line? You won’t stand a chance. Move on to Hodel!

Hodel is a great choice if you like to hang out in train depots, hearing melancholy songs. Just know she’ll never ask your permission to get her nails done. But she would like your blessing, so that’s something! Plus she’ll definitely follow you around, far from the home she loves, even if you move to Siberia, a frozen wasteland. So there! We’ve established Hodel’s unwavering loyalty. Just get used to being compared to the Rabbi’s son. Because they only have one Rabbi and he only has one son. Why shouldn’t she want the best? Don’t bother reminding her she’s only the daughter of a milkman, a girl from a poor family, with no dowry, because she’ll firmly put you in place by announcing an old custom they have — in which a boy talks respectfully to a girl. But maybe that’s too traditional for an advanced thinker like you! If you feel you must propose marriage to Hodel, for goodness sakes, don’t make it into a political question! If you want my advice, consider the younger sister, Chava. Especially if you’re into books. Because not many girls in this village like to read!

Chava just divorced so she’s extra cautious with dating, even toying with the idea of remaining friends from a distance. That’s the lesson learned when you run off and have a priest marry you (and your gentile guy!) just because he shared some tattered paperback novel. Chava will demand proof you’re the real deal … as in your mother must be Jewish. None of this “I’ll convert and we won’t have a Christmas tree” nonsense. When you’re scarred by your father disowning you, that’s simply not an option. One way to coax Chava into tying the knot again is by calling her by her full name, Chaveleh. Oh yes, and definitely compare her to a bird. Indeed, why not? She was always such a pretty thing. Everybody’s favorite child. Gentle and kind and affectionate, what a sweet little bird she was, Chaveleh, Chaveleh. Works like a charm!

So don’t marry in church, but feel free to exit Anatevka. It hasn’t exactly been the Garden of Eden. Someone should have set a match to that place years ago. Now as to Tevye’s fourth and fifth daughters? They’re still young and have nothing to say for themselves except giggle as they part the curtains thru the open windows of the Matchmaker song. (It’s the oldest three daughters stealing this show!) Oops, I forgot one final admonition…don’t think about messing around with that Fruma Sarah chick. She’ll come to you by night, she’ll take you by the throat and … Oy! Oy! Oy! Too dreadful to write about here so I’ll have to tell you in a dream.


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