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Rav Goren dancing in an Israeli Army Simchat Torah celebration in 1969. You can see how shocked he is that somebody is taking a picture on the Chag. He didn't realize that his non-religious relatives followed him to Israel. You can also see everybody doing the two-handed Torah hold. When in war with possible flying bullets, the two-handed Torah hold is the goto dance. (Photo: Israel Press and Photo Agency (I.P.P.A.) Dan Hadani collection, National Library of Israel)
As Jews, we dance in a circle. That is our style. Now, with the holiday of Torah Happiness, we dance with a Torah in a circle. The Torah adding a whole new dimension to the circle. Over the years many styles of the Torah hold and Torah grab in circle form have developed.
As a student of different styles of Torah clutching in circle dance, I bring you some of the main Middle Circle Torah Lift Dances, including the Torah hug in a circle. I will not focus on outer-circle Torah dancing, as there is nothing more you can do in the outer-circle than blend in and get outshined by kids on your friends' shoulders.
Two Handed Torah Lift
A flashy move with the Torah. This is where you grab the bottom two handles of the Torah pole and lift the Torah, up and down. Similar to the ubiquitous supinated arm raise, this should always be done with two hands, as nobody wants to fast for 40 days.
The true goal of all Torah dancing is to not drop the Torah. If dropped, all have to fast for 40 days, or not eat during the day and gorge at night. This is why the most important people involved in the Torah dancing are the ones staring at the Torah lifters, praying in anxiety that they don't drop it.
The Torah Bang
Two people take their Torahs in the ‘Two Handed Torah in Air’ dance formation and then bring them towards the middle and have them touch. This can also be done with three or more people. If there are enough people, you can have a whole Torah mosh pit.
When Torah Banging, we do make it a point to not play heavy metal on Simchat Torah, as we do not want people falling or getting beaten up in the name of Simcha dancing. Nonetheless, there is a large community of Torah bangers out there.
I would personally suggest to be more gentle and to go for the Torah Touch dance. It does take more finesse, but it's not as violent. I have noticed that less injuries occur with the touch.
The One Hander
Similar to the ‘Two Handed Torah in Air,’ this is done with one hand. Taken out of the strong man competition, this feat of strength is usually done by circus performers and balancing acts that show up for Shacharit.
The Over the Shoulders Hold
You hold the Torah with one arm, placed over your shoulder, and then you place your other arm in the middle of the circle, with the other two to three people holding Torahs. It is kind of like the 'Hokie Pokie', but you leave your right arm in. You then go around in a circle, with your hands touching each other, because you are all playing for the same team. The team of Torah. This can also be done in the outside circle, by those who don't want to be noticed, but only if it is an ‘Arm on Shoulders’ circle.
The Supportive Torah Lift
You hold onto one of the Torah’s handles and then lift it while supporting the Torah scroll from the middle of the back. You are working as the lifter and the spotter in this dance. It's a double duty, but it has its rewards in the World to Come.
The Torah Hug
You go around in the circle and make sure the Torah doesn’t fall. You just walk around and hug it. It's the most intimate Torah dance, showing your love and affection for the Torah and Gd.
The Torah Train
This is for the trailblazer who ventures their dancing out of the circle. I don't suggest this, until you've mastered the inner circle Torah dances and have created a following. Otherwise, it looks more like a trolly.
You surprise the crowd with this by chu-chuing the circle into the train. As the Torah hugger, you are not riding caboose. You are close to Gd and therefore you lead the train. Generally, you want to lead with a two-handed Torah grab, as the over the shoulder Torah hold will end up wacking the guy behind you in the face with the Etz HaChaims (the Torah scroll wooden pole handles).
Kid on Shoulder
If you don't have a Torah, you can still be noticed. The child is treated like a Torah. Think of their legs as Poles of Life Handles.
Sometimes you will use one hand. Sometimes, you have two hands on their legs. I’ve seen parents not use any hands. These people are joining the dancing from the circus. That’s an act. These are the same people lifting Torahs with one hand.
I've seen parents toss their kids in the air. Nobody is worried about the parents dropping the kids. As long as it's not a Torah, nobody cares. Nobody is fasting for a child.
The Walk Around with Kid on Shoulders
This is where you walk. That’s the dance. The fact that your child is on your shoulders is enough fun for them. There is no need to do any fancy footwork. Showing you're a parent will have people impressed enough.
If you are not part of a traveling circus, keep your hands on your child. I would also suggest to use your hands when carrying the Torah. The balancing on the nose Torah act will have the whole shul passing out of anxiety attacks.
Next time, we will deal with the fifty-inch circumference Sefardic Torah Dances, all consist of the atlas stone hug and placement back on the table. Leaving the Torah on the table is the key to walking out of dancing with a healthy back.
No matter the Torah you are dancing with, I will also prescribe a training program so that you can walk out of Simchat Torah being the talk of the town next year, with your Torah lifting and banging abilities.
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