Mind Matters

by Rev. Robert H. Tucker

Number 269
November 10, 1997

"Where Will It Stop?"


Tevye has arranged a marriage for his eldest daughter with the village's old and rich butcher. Tradition dictates her compliance. But, she refuses the older rich butcher for a younger poor tailor. Tevye's inner debate--"on the one hand, on the other hand"--leads to his approval of the marriage, but he asks, "Where will it (the breaking of tradition) end?" A second daughter makes her own marriage arrangement, and Tevye, going through the same inner struggle over the breaking of tradition, also accepts that daughter's marriage choice.

It is when the third daughter wants to marry a Russian Christian that Tevye balks. "Can I deny everything I believe in? On the other hand can I deny my own child? On the other hand, how can I turn my back on my faith, my people? If I try to bend that far, I will break. On the other hand there is no other hand." To his wife, he says, "Chava is dead to us! We will forget her."

This dialogue, from the play, Fiddler on the Roof, came to mind when a person recently asked me: "Where do we draw the line?" referring to all the changes in church and society that we are called on to make. Certainly, the ground is continually slipping and sliding as old certainties and standards become optional or are discarded. At what point does any one of us finally say, "That's it, no more there is no other hand." It is an awesome decision, especially when such a statement consigns others to the outer darkness of our concern and care. Refusing to draw that line leads us to the other question, "Where will it end?"

I don't know. But, I would rather ask the later question than make the former statement when it comes to people. To say about another person or group, directly or indirectly, "_____ is dead to us!" has consequences, in my mind, that are far, far too ugly and too venomous.


--Robert H. Tucker
10 November 1997

© Robert H. Tucker, 1997.
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