To Life! to Life! L'chaim!

By Grove, Helen | Moment, September-October 2008 | Go to article overview

To Life! to Life! L'chaim!


Grove, Helen, Moment


"Mazel tov ... l'chaim ... I wish for you a hundred years of success," raps hip-hop artist Jay-Z in a recent music video for the 2007 song ROC Boys (And the Winner Is), a celebration of success and excess. In the widely popular 2005 comedy film Wedding Crashers, two non-Jewish bachelors played by Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn shout l'chaim!--complete with the guttural clearing-of-the-throat sound unique to Semitic languages--to a bride and groom they have just met.

No longer reserved for Yiddish-speaking grandparents from the Old Country, l'chaim--to life!--has become synonymous with "cheers." It's an all-purpose toast for any occasion or situation that crosses barriers of class, culture and age and can be heard over clanking beer mugs across the nation.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

L'chaim's new life as an all-American drinking toast comes courtesy of the classic musical Fiddler on the Roof and its famously catchy refrain "To life, to life, l'chaim; l'chaim, l'chaim, to life!" sung by Tevye, the protagonist, during an impromptu celebration of good fortune in one of the play's more boisterous scenes. The play--based on Sholem Aleichem's story, "Tevye's Daughters"--debuted on Broadway in 1964.

"The gentleman who wrote the libretto for the show, Joe Stein, wrote a scene in which Tevye and the butcher talk about whether or not Tevye will allow the butcher to marry his daughter Tzeitel," says Sheldon Harnick, who wrote the lyrics for To Life. "Towards the end of the scene Tevye agrees, so the butcher says, 'Good, let's toast on it.' And I thought, what a nice kickoff for a song!"

Harnick's inspiration for To Life came from the most unlikely of sources: a performance by comedian Lenny Bruce. Bruce's well-known use of obscenities didn't bother Harnick. What did annoy him was that Bruce would throw out Yiddish words that left many in his audience baffled. To guarantee that theatergoers would understand the Hebrew and Yiddish words in Fiddler, Harnick made sure to give proper context and explanation. "For l'chaim I thought to take no chances, I'm going to incorporate the translation into the lyrics," he says.

Harnick, Stein and composer Jerry Bock never imagined the song would take on a life of its own, so much so that almost 45 years later, offers for free downloads of To Life cell phone ring tones would eventually permeate the web, or that the toast itself would have transcended East European Jewish culture to become mainstream. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

To Life! to Life! L'chaim!
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.