The Need for Change on Simchat Torah

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On Friday night, Rabbi Schwartz gave a 30~ minute drasha on the subject of women dancing while holding a sefer torah on Simchat Torah. This has been a controversial matter at the Mt. Sinai Jewish Center for a number of years, and the Rabbi knew that this would be an issue he would face early in his tenure at the shul.

To summarize: There is no halachik basis to deny women the right to dance with the Torah (niddah argument is bogus). The only question is a matter of Tradition vs. the recent spike in interest of women to be actively and passionately involved in torah learning. At first he felt that there was a lot of momentum to change the minhag of the shul to allow women to dance, but in recent weeks he said that many people had approached him to say that they would be uncomfortable with the change.

I think that it’s a no-brainer to allow women to dance with the sefer Torah. It’s another case of one group of people denying the self-expression of other people because it makes them feel icky (see: prop 8). If there’s no halachik problem, then if it makes some men or women uncomfortable, they can stay home. Personally I felt so uncomfortable with the fact that women were not allowed to dance with the torah that I did not participate in the dancing at all, and passed on having an aliyah.

But enough with the arguments pro or con – Rabbi Schartz clearly said that he wants to hear from the congregation. I encourage everyone to contact Rabbi Schartz and tell him what you think about Simchat Torah. We need to give him a clear message well in advance of next year’s Simchat Torah if we expect any sort of action to be taken.

CALL

EMAIL

VISIT HIM DURING OFFICE HOURS

Take the few minutes to share your feelings with Rabbi Schwartz, and tell him that we want a change for next year.

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5 thoughts on “The Need for Change on Simchat Torah

  1. tani p.

    Hey Aaron,

    My wife said women were dancing with a Torah downstairs at Mt. Sinai in the Beit Midrash, maybe it was a guerrilla event, I don’t know, but she saw it!

  2. tani p.

    Reading that email you sent I realize now you meant women should dance in the main hall with the Torah, where the men were. I gotcha. Yea, that didn’t happen. The optimist in me wants to say the downstairs contingent was a step in the right direction, though.

  3. d..s.

    Hi Aaron,

    you know my feelings on the issue of “uncomfortability”, putting an aesthetic need of some in front of a deep spiritual need of others…

    I’m glad that the Rabbi at least educated the community and removed misconceptions about this issue.

    if a shul is NOT going to allow women to dance with the Torah, then they should at least recognize how S”T is not an enjoyable experience for many women (I stayed home this year) and the shul should cater to the needs of half of the congregation by scheduling in a women’s shiur during hakafot, lets make the “simcha” of “torah” on this day accessible to women through limmud torah, I think we would all agree that it would be time well spent..

  4. Aaron

    d.s,

    You make a really good point. And it was significant to point out that at Mount Sinai, there was a strong contingent of 40-50 women dancing upstairs with a Torah on a table, 30 or more women dancing downstairs with a Torah (breakaway and unclear how sanctioned it is), and about 100 more just milling around.

    Obviously there were also plenty of men milling around, but there was a noticeable difference in the number of women not dancing compared to the number of men.

    At least there was a great shiur (for men and women) on the subject of the “Bavel Story” offered during the time that the men are getting aliyot.

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