Tevye der milkhiger

[Tevye and His Daughters]


Act I. Tevye, a pious and poor Jew, has lived his whole life in a Ukrainian village. He has several daughters but he loves his youngest daughter, Chava, the most. To earn a meager living for his family, Tevye sells cheese, butter, and milk in the surrounding countryside. A neighboring student, Fedya, a Christian, falls in love with Chava. She is torn between her love for Fedya and her family ties, but ultimately converts to Christianity so she can marry him.

Act II. Tevye and his wife, Golde, are devestated by Chava’s conversion. As prescribed by traditional Jewish law, they sit in mourning for her as if she were dead. Golde dies shortly thereafter, leaving Tevya and his oldest daughter, Tzaitel, to continue their lonely struggle for existence.

Act III. The Czar issues a new proclamation ordering the expulsion of all remaining Jews from the area. The village council of peasants meets and decides that Tevye must leave the village. The gendarmes arrive with the proclamation and demand that Tevye sign a statement that he consents to the decree and leave the village. Tevye is compelled to sell his house and beloved horse, and he decides to leave for Israel with his remaining daughter. However, at the very last moment, Chava returns to him and begs forgiveness. She realized she made a mistake by converting and that it is futile to try to escape her destiny as a Jew. Tevye forgives her. Seeking solace in a passage from the Psalms, his eyes look to heaven as he asks: “Father in heaven, You who art the Father of all creation, full of compassion and forgiveness, would You have me do otherwise?”

Adapted from a Yiddish Art Theater program by Sonia Gollance