September 23, 2013
Simchat Torah: The Merit of A Dance
Rabbi Israel Ariel related the following story:
During the Yom Kippur War ( 40 years ago this year ie 1973),, the army called up the reserve soldiers to defend the country against the surprise Arab attack. Heavy fighting continued for several weeks, through the holiday of Succoth. During Simchat Torah, many felt that it was improper to dance and rejoice while the soldiers were in the midst of the rages of battle. Some of the yeshiva students also felt that public displays of joy were inappropriate during the war.
Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook, however, was adamant. “We will teach the people to rejoice!” The rabbi, accompanied by a small band of students, danced toward the Jerusalem home of the Chief Rabbi of Israel. A few of the synagogue members also joined the yeshiva students, including Rabbi Ariel’s father.
When they reached King George Street, a passerby began to shout at them. ‘How dare you dance? The entire Jewish people are fighting for their lives at the front, and you dance? Have you no shame?!’
Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah stopped and calmly responded to the man, ‘Why are you upset? Look at this Jew who is dancing with me’ – and here he pointed at my father. ‘His four sons are all currently fighting at various fronts. And yet he dances and rejoices in the simchah of the Torah. You should also come and dance with us…’
Rabbi Ariel continued:
At the same time that my father was dancing with Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah in Jerusalem, I was with my brother Rabbi Yaakov Ariel ( now Rav of Ramat Gan) on Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights. We were sprawled out on the ground while enemy shells whistled above us, falling to our right and to our left.
Who knows? Perhaps it was the merit of that dance that saved our lives…
(Adapted from Mashmia Yeshuah by R. Simcha Raz p. 504)