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Do Angels Need to Dance?

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One evening during Sukkot, at the Simchat Beit HaSho’evah celebration held annually at Neve Yerushalaim, a Jerusalem women’s seminary, my daughters and I engaged in four or five hours of non-stop dancing. The boomingly loud music, provided as it is each year by a local women’s band, was ear-splitting, irresistible, rhythmic, sometimes sweet and yearning. The women and girls, mostly strangers to each other, came in all ages, and for those uninhibited hours hundreds of us danced and danced and danced as if nothing else in the world existed but our feet, and our songs, and our exhilaration.

On the bus ride home late that night, as my littlest girl fell asleep on my lap and my teenagers talked with their friends, I thought of a Simchat Beit HaSho’evah celebration 25 years earlier, when a young Jewish woman, harboring some tender hopes and fervent questions, entered a synagogue. By herself in New York City, she had heard that on this night there would be dancing going on here and she’d looked forward to it all week. She couldn’t wait to dance, she hoped to find a community that would embrace her, she wanted Jewish explanations for everything in her own life and on the planet. And last but not least, when she walked through those doors she wanted God Himself to be there waiting for her.


From the women’s balcony of the 72nd Street Synagogue, I looked down upon the men dancing for a Jewish holiday I’d never heard of until that day. Fathers held children aloft on their shoulders as they circled around and around and around; small girls and boys dashed in and out of the delighted procession. These self-inclusive families were everywhere, it seemed. The music was fast and loud and catchy. Outside there was thunder and lightning and cold. In here it was warm, and bright.

I tapped my foot and looked around discreetly at the women occupying the tiered benches, and when I couldn’t stand it any longer, sidled over to the sedate-looking lady seated a bit to my left. I had recently started recognizing these people’s........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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