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Tevye the Dairyman

Tevye the Dairyman


by Sholem Aleichem

Tevye the Dairyman Religion Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Story Number.Paragraph

Quote #1

A stroke of good luck doesn't take brains or ability. But should it be the other way around—God forbid, you can talk until you are blue in the face, and it will do as much good as last winter's snow. (2.1)

The upshot of Tevye's faith always seems to be that there is no personal responsibility—whatever happens, that's what God wanted to happen, so there's no reason to try to figure out how actions interconnect with each other or who is at fault. Since mostly the person at fault is Tevye, that does seem like the way to go for him.

Quote #2

Oh what a numbskull I was, I thought. I always was a pauper and I would always remain a pauper. God had arranged this encounter, something that happens maybe once in a hundred years—and I didn't settle on a price beforehand. What was I going to get out of it? I was acting according to fairness, decency, righteousness, and law, according to edict, and according to anything I could think of under the sun. But even so, what would have been the harm in earning a little something while I was at it? (2.41)

Tevye sure is quick to chalk up his failures to religious/deeply humanist/philosophical beliefs.

Quote #3

"If he thinks he's buying our milk cow, he might as well take a stick and knock that idea out of his head. […] It's a shame to sell her to be slaughtered, a pity on a living creature. It is written in the sacred Torah—"

"Oh, enough with the Torah, Tevye! Everybody knows you're a man of the Torah. Listen to me, your wife." (4.6-8)

There are only a couple of moments where Golde calls Tevye out on his nonsense with the constant Torah quotes and references. It's pretty great actually, since he usually uses the Torah as an avoidance strategy for dealing with whatever the newest crisis is—and here, Golde is all, dude, listen to the person who is actually paying attention.

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