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Yidden, chopt a tantz – Jews, grab a dance!

Friday, 24 September, 2021 - 4:23 am

During the Second World War, many of the Jews in the Soviet Union fled to Uzbekistan. Among them was a large group of Chabad Chassidim, who, as one would expect, immediately began to supply both the material and the spiritual needs of the many refugees. In those days, in order to be an observant Jew one needed much steadfastness, as observing Mitzvot could be life-endangering under those circumstances. The Yeshivas were underground institutions, and the children’s Chadarim (elementary schools) were also hidden from the public eye; and we haven’t even mentioned what performing a Brit Milah (circumcision) entailed.


One especially notable person among the Chabad Chassidim was R. Nissan Nemnov z”l, who was a paragon already in his youth, even among his close friends. In one of the clandestine night joint sessions, in which the Chassidim encouraged one another by singing, learning Torah and of course a bissele L’Chaim on some form of Russian spirits, R. Nissan got up on the table, and, dancing, called out to the Chassidim: “Yidden! Chopt mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice)!” And he then explained: “Right now we are not permitted to learn Torah and observe the Mitzvot, to the point that we are in danger of losing our lives if we do. In the future, when we get to free countries, we won’t have this opportunity!”


My friends, we are about to enter the forty-eight hours of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah – days in which we celebrate, and mainly dance with the Torah; days in which every Jew’s connection to Torah is lit up, whether he learns and knows Torah or not. Even if he never learned Torah, and doesn’t even know the Aleph-Beit – he too is connected to the Torah. The Torah belongs to each and every one of us, because that’s what Moshe Rabbeinu said before he died: “The Torah that Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Yaakov.” And a heritage is something that is shared equally by everyone!

The former Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Shneerson, warned in the name of his father, Rabbi Shalom Dover Shneerson that, “The forty-eight hours of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah should be highly valued. Every minute in them one can draw up bucketfuls and barrelfuls of treasures, both in the material and the spiritual – and all of this is done through the dancing. Yidden, chopt a tantz – Jews, grab a dance!”

So great treasures of blessings, both material and spiritual, await us on these days, and all that is demanded of us is to dance in happiness over our heritage – the Torah. So even if you usually stand on the side, and watch the dancers; even if it’s “not your thing” to join them, and of course, if you have a hidden desire to dance, go beyond yourself and grab a dance! For there is one thing certain: These forty-eight hours will be over in exactly forty-eight hours.


“Yidden, chopt a tantz – Jews, grab a dance!”


Shabbat Shalom and Moadim Lesimcha,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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