The Rebbetzin was a big proponent of song and dance as a method of getting closer to Hashem. Music speaks to the soul, and dance is the physical expression of joy: simchas hachayim and simcha of avodas Hashem.
I already explained why I wasn’t a fan of dancing. But singing wasn’t my thing either. I didn’t have a huge vocal range and had never found the exercise of it particularly fascinating. I did join the shabbaton choir in 9th grade because we were required to join something, and choir was a pretty brainless, irresponsible position as they went. But then one of the cool girls told me that I looked really cute bouncing along during one of the livelier songs. I wasn’t flattered. No more choir.
The next time I was dutifully sitting in a kumzitz in the hallway (because that was what most students did during the few minutes we were permitted to move around freely; sit on the floor and sing) I looked around the circle. Eyes were closed, bodies were swaying, some girl I didn’t know had her clammy hand on my shoulder. At least several girls appeared to have a stomach ache, if their facial expressions could be judged.
I decided that everyone looked stupid while singing. It was okay to look stupid if it stemmed from some real feeling for the song. But I didn’t have any. So I got up and walked back into the classroom.
From then on, I spent my few minutes of free mobility sitting on the windowsill with my friends comparing the short stories we’d written during class. They didn’t want to sing either. Some of them didn’t have great voices, at least one was utterly tone deaf, and some simply preferred to use their free time in a manner they found more enjoyable.
But like I said, most people were in the floor in the hall. They’d look around, realize most of the school was there singing, and decide to get all the school singing. So someone would come into the classroom and try to wave us out into the corridor. “Come join us!” they’d urge, as if the fact that we hadn’t was simply an oversight on our part, and not a purposeful state of affairs.
Indeed, the general consensus among singers seemed to be that people who didn’t sing were secretly yearning to sing, but were too shy.
So it was Camp Shabbaton. That’s when they transport the entire school into the mountains for a weekend of chizuk, inspiration, fresh air, and exercise. I flew my first kite on a shabbaton. It was the most inspiring thing I came across that weekend, which also included group discussions with teachers, lectures, and a card game about how to prioritize life. (The game was a close second to the kite.)
Shabbos lunch the school sang zemiros. Then they went on to sing things that weren’t zemiros. My friends and I sat patiently, occasionally conversing quietly among ourselves, waiting for it to end. “Doesn’t anyone have a dvar Torah to say?” I wondered, as they swung into yet another song.
But no, it got worse. A group of students was so inspired by the singing that they jumped up and began dancing around their table. Immediately, the Rebbetzin joined them, and once she led the way, more students and teachers followed. Soon, everyone who was an enthusiastic dancer was up and dancing, and the circle kept getting bigger and bigger and encompassing more and more tables. Eventually, they decided to just go around the circumference of the room.
The circle wasn’t big enough to stretch all the way around, though, so the dancers started proselytizing. “Come join us!” they’d shout as they whirled past. “Come!” Their hands reached out to grab ours, their fingers beckoned, their faces smiled as they tried to convey the joy they felt.
The shy students joined.
The circle now included the majority of the school. They were jumping, stepping, kicking, and at every turn, urging us to join them. Some more students, feeling like the odd ones out, joined. Soon, only the hard-core anti-dancers were left. We sat at our tables, watching the dancing with expressionless eyes, doing our best to ignore the reaching arms, the grasping hands, the increasingly demanding eyes.
Because this was no longer about spreading the joy. No, it had become something darker. Our abstinence offended the dancers. It was (somehow) like a rejection of them. They didn’t want us to dance so that we would enjoy ourselves.
They wanted us to dance so they could enjoy themselves.
And now, there were only five students left who weren’t dancing. Me and my four friends.