Study Guide

Tevye the Dairyman Vachalaklokos

By Sholem Aleichem


  • So, this isn't really a whole story like the others were. It's more like a fragment that expands the Ivan Poperilo episode from the previous story and tries to put a slightly happier spin on it.
  • Again, we start with Tevye talking about all the pogrom and forced resettlements the Jews are undergoing in Russia.
  • He is just like the rest, no matter how special he feels to himself for his learning and his ability to quote scripture. Still, he says, this story shows that it really is good to be a reasonably educated person.
  • He takes us back to the day when Ivan Poperilo and his mob showed up at Tevye's house and explained that, hey, no hard feelings, but we're here to bust up your stuff and kick your behind as well.
  • Tevye first protests, but they insist that no, really, they need to destroy his house or they're going to be the ones getting in trouble.
  • Finally, he makes them a bet. He'll open up the Book of Psalms, pick out the first word he finds, and if they can repeat the word back to him then that means that God wants them to go ahead and trash the place. If not, then not.
  • That's logic.
  • The word he comes up with? "Vachalaklokos." Say that three times fast. Really, even three times slow. Even one time without stumbling over the syllables. Give up? So does the mob outside Tevye's house.
  • He tries another one, "m'maamkim keraticha." Same deal as before—no one can pronounce the Hebrew words.
  • Ivan Poperilo laughs all this off, and again tells Tevye that, hey, really, man, it's not you—it's the state.
  • But he does soften the blow, so to speak. They will for sure at least have to break the windows, to make it look like they really stuck it to him—but they'll end up going easy on the inside, and they won't actually beat him.
  • So… yeah, that seems like a horrible, but somewhat better deal.
  • Tevye ends the story by affirming that Jews are a special set of people, because they're privileged to be on the outside of wherever they happen to be.
  • Also a big privilege? To be an endless exile, to not know where you're supposed to go to be accepted, and to just wait for whatever future God feels like throwing out there.
  • We're thinking he's not being 100% serious here.