The Norman Jewison directed 1971 film Fiddler on the Roof is unquestionably about Judaism and Jewish tradition, but the truth is that it's also about so much more than that. It's about the human condition; it's about family; and it's about how we all learn to relate to people who are different, be they of a different age, gender, religion, or background. It is impossible to sit and watch the three hour tour-de-force and not find something in it which you can see mirrored in your own life.
At the heart of the film ,and repeatedly breaking the fourth wall, is Tevye (Topol in an Oscar nominated performance). Tevye is a Jewish milkman living with his wife, Golde (Norma Crane), and five daughters in the village of Anatevka in Tsarist Russia just after the start of the 20th Century. It is not an easy life for Tevye, his family, or any of the other members of the community, but as he would tell you, it's tradition and so that is what he does.
As much as Tevye may appreciate and respect tradition, he finds that his three oldest daughters – Tzeitel (Rosalind Harris), Hodel (Michele Marsh), and Chava (Neva Small) – don't necessarily want to follow in the same path. Over the course of the film, one by one, they all ask for permission to marry someone that they love and who is not of Tevye's choosing. Their desire to not wholly abandon life as they and their family know it, but to tweak it slightly.
Just as it does today for all of us, the world around Tevye is changing and the ways that worked from him when he was young don't work for his daughters. What the film doesn't say overtly is that it's entirely probably that the way Tevye does things aren't really the way his parents did, no matter how much he may argue that he is simply following tradition. The reality is – and the film acknowledges this – that we don't live in a vacuum and things change from generation to generation, it's not always an easy change to deal with, but simply sticking one's head in the sand doesn't work either.