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The Power of Dance

The Power of Dance

Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, who served as Chief Rabbi of Yamit and founded the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, related this story from 1973, when he was a student at Mercaz HaRav and was called up to fight in the Yom Kippur War.

During the Yom Kippur War, the army called up reserve soldiers to defend the country against the surprise Arab attack. Heavy fighting continued in the Golan Heights and the Sinai Desert for several weeks, through the holiday of Succoth.

Immediately following Succoth is a holiday of exuberant joy – Simchat Torah, when it is customary to celebrate the completion of reading the Torah with singing and dancing. During the war, however, many felt that it was improper to rejoice while the soldiers were fighting on the battlefield. Some of the yeshiva students also felt that public displays of joy were inappropriate.

But Rav Tzvi Yehuda was adamant: “We will teach the people to rejoice!”

The rabbi, accompanied by a small band of students, danced on Simchat Torah morning in the streets of Jerusalem, as they made their way to the home of the Chief Rabbi. A few of the synagogue members also joined the yeshiva students, including my father.

When they reached King George Street, a passerby began to shout at them. “How dare you dance?” The man pointed an accusatory finger at the group. “The whole country is fighting for its life in this war, and you dance? Have you no shame?!”

Rav Tzvi Yehudah stopped and turned to him. “Why are you upset? Look at this Jew who is dancing with me” – and here he indicated my father. “His four sons are all currently fighting at various fronts. And yet he dances and rejoices in the Simcha of the Torah. You should also come and dance with us!”

At the very time that my father was dancing with Rav Tzvi Yehudah in Jerusalem, I was stationed on Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights with my brother Rabbi Yaakov Ariel [now Chief Rabbi of the city of Ramat Gan]. We were in grave danger, sprawled out on the ground while enemy shells whistled above us, exploding to our right and to our left.

Who knows? Perhaps it was the merit of that holy dance in honour of the Torah that saved our lives…. Stories from the Land of Israel.

Some Interesting Questions and Answers Regarding Succot

QUESTION: Does it make any difference who puts the schach on the sukkah?

DISCUSSION: The basic halakha permits any person – male or female, adult or minor, Jew or non-Jew, to put the schach on the sukkah as long as it is placed either l’shem mitzvas succah or l’shem tzeil. Nevertheless, l’chatchilah it is preferable to be stringent and allow only an adult Jewish male to place the schach over the sukkah.

QUESTION: In the face of an approaching storm, is it permitted to nail or tie down the schach to the walls or the frame of the sukkah?

DISCUSSION: It is permitted to tie down the schach to the walls or the frame of the sukkah with any string or rope that is available. Although we previously stated that l’chatchilah schach supports must also be made from materials that are kosher for schach, in this case the rope or string is not considered as support, since under normal weather conditions the schach will remain intact without being tied down.

However, to nail the schach down is not permitted. As explained earlier, a sukkah must be a temporary structure. When schach is nailed down, especially if it is nailed down so well that it blocks the rain from entering the sukkah, the sukkah takes on the character of a permanent structure. Such a sukkah is not valid, even b’diavad.

QUESTION: When reciting Havdalah over wine (or grape juice) in the sukkah, does one recite leisheiv ba-sukkah?

DISCUSSION: The general rule is that leisheiv ba-sukkah is recited only before a keviut seudah, a sit-down meal consisting of at least a k’beitzah (approx. 2 fl. oz.) of either bread or cake. Sitting in the sukkah merely to drink wine (or grape juice), even if the drinking takes place with an entire group and for a long period of time, is not considered a keviut seudah and a blessing is not recited.) Some poskim rule, therefore, that leisheiv ba-sukkah is not recited over wine when it is drunk for Havdalah.

Other poskim, however, make a distinction between drinking wine just for enjoyment and drinking wine in the performance of an important mitzvah such as Havdalah. In their opinion, the blessing of leisheiv ba-sukkah is recited when wine is drunk for Havdalah, since the mitzvah of Havdalah elevates the drinking and gives it the dignity of a keviut. Although either opinion may be followed as there is no prevalent custom, those who want to avoid a potentially questionable situation should make sure to eat some bread or cake immediately after Havdalah, which allows them to recite leisheiv ba-sukkah according to all opinions.

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