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.
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.