In part 1, Shabbos lunch zemiros turned into a kumzitz and then dancing. The whole school was up and at it except for a group of five holdouts at my table. The dancers kept inviting us to join. But as time went on, the invitations became less friendly.
“Why aren’t you dancing?” a student broke out of the circle to demand of us.
“I don’t want to,” I said.
“I have two left feet,” Tova said.
“It’s not allowed,” Devorah whispered.
The student glared at us, hands on hips, shook her head, and rejoined the circle.
A teacher burst out of the circle and loomed above us. “Why aren’t you girls dancing?” she demanded. We started mumbling our reasons. “This is such an eis ratzon! You’re losing out on a powerful moment!”
Two of our number stood up reluctantly. “Come on,” they murmured out of the corner of their mouths. “Just do it. It won’t be so bad.”
I glared at them. Weaklings. Nobody was going to bully me into dancing. There was no good reason why I should, and I didn’t want to!
The teacher glared at us. “You’re ruining it for the whole school!” she informed us. We gazed at the table and scratched the plastic tablecloth. Well, I did. “Don’t do that on Shabbos,” Devorah said. The teacher realized we were not going to move and left.
We gusted sighs of relief.
But it wsn’t over. Oh no. People who stand up for their principles (be they ever so humble) always have to pay. I saw Friend 1 staring in horror over my shoulder. Before I could turn around, the Rebbetzin was upon us.
The Rebbetzin had two modes for mussar. One was the tearful route I already described once. The other was fire and brimstone. For recusant dancers, fire and brimstone was the technique she chose.
“How dare you sit here like this,” She bellowed over 250 singing and stomping students. “How dare you sit out when the entire school is dancing? How dare you be a poresh min hatzibur?”
Odd, isn’t it, how three people dancing when everyone is sitting is okay, but three people sitting when everyone is dancing are poresh min hatzibur.
She stood there and glared at us with her laser beam eyes. The Rebbetzin was a charismatic and persuasive woman. She was a successful mechanech for a good reason.
Friend 1 stood up, not making eye contact with us, and shuffled into the circle. She shuffled her way around the room to the door and then ducked out. We didn’t see her again until bentching.
“And you?” the Rebbtzin turned her laser gaze on me.
“I don’t want to,” I said, shredding the tablecloth. “I don’t like dancing.”
“This is not about what you want or like,” she informed me. I kept staring at the table. This conversation had officially entered territory I did not understand. I had no idea what to answer.
She decided to take hiatus from me and turned to Devorah. “And you? What’s your reason?”
“It’s assur on Shabbos,”Devorah said.
“What?” I turned to stare at Devorah. Here I thought she was merely being stubborn & principled, but really she was being holier-than-thou to the entire school and faculty!
“It’s assur to dance on Shabbos,” she repeated, a little bit louder.
“I’ve never heard such a thing!” declared the Rebbetzin
“Well it’s still true!” Devorah was getting shrill. Here she was, the lone holdout of halachic accuracy in a den of sinners. Moreover, the people who were supposed to be overseeing her spirituality were the very ones trying to coerce her to sin.
“Where did you get this from?” The Rebbtzin clearly wanted to dismiss this crazy idea and get back to making us dance. But she couldn’t be dismissive of a halachic assertion.
“It’s in the Shulchan Aruch. The Mishna Berura. I don’t know, anywhere. You aren’t supposed to dance on Shabbos. Ask Rabbi Schwartz!” Rabbi Schwartz being our Halacha teacher, sitting next door with his wife and children in the family dining room.
The Rebbetzin hesitated. Then she turned on her heels and marched across the room. We saw her pull a student out of the ring of dancers and speak to her briefly. The girl disappeared through the door to the family dining room. The Rebbetzin waited. The school danced. I turned to Devorah.
“That’s brilliant!” I commended her. “How did you think to say that?”
She gave me her most put-upon expression. “Because it’s true.”
The student slipped back through the door from the family dining room and spoke urgently to the Rebbetzin. Immediately, the Rebbetzin started waving her arms, signaling the school to stop dancing. Teachers came over and conferred, and then started waving their arms too. Puzzled students paused, expecting a song change or an inspiring announcement. Instead, they were brusquely sent to their seats.
“What happened?” I heard them question as they filed past.
Nobody ever told them why.
Sources for the curious:
Mishna Beitza 5 –
Mishna Berura OH 339:8 –
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