Dancing with the Torah

October 12, 2022

Elisheva Braun

Simchas Torah is one of the rare times when our neshamos seem palpable, pulsating, alive. The ecstasy and unwavering devotion that flicker in every Yid’s heart are breathtakingly apparent, leaping to the surface in unrestrained dance.

Here, we bring you four accounts that highlight Simchas Torah’s undiluted joy.

Rabbi Sruly Fried, MSW

Rabbi Sruly Fried, MSW is the New Jersey regional director of Chai Lifeline.

As a child, I went with my father to BMG for Simchas Torah. Each year, Rav Nosson Wachtfogel zt”l danced “Moshe Emes” at the aron kodesh. The Mashgiach’s dancing was so intense that his tallis always slipped off. Each year, I made sure I was by the steps to the aron kodesh so I could pick up R’ Nosson’s tallis when it fell. Each year, R’ Nosson thanked me, then bent down and danced with me, perpetuating our precious little tradition.

Another unforgettable Simchas Torah took place years later. A Chai Lifeline volunteer donated personalized Sifrei Torah to child patients, and on Hoshanah Rabbah, I drove around delivering them in time for Simchas Torah.

Moishy*, a seven-year-old boy with cancer, was one of the recipients. An hour before Simchas Torah started, Moishy spiked a fever and had to be taken to the emergency room. On the way to the hospital, he remembered the Torah. His parents hurried back home to retrieve it.

What should have been an in-and-out visit turned into a difficult ordeal when Moishy’s numbers were not good and he was put in isolation. They held the Sefer Torah, singing and dancing the day away in a small isolation room in CHOP.

Mordechai Weinberger, LCSW

Mordechai Weinberger, LCSW is the director of Mordechai Weinberger LCSW Consulting Centers.

Yeruchem*, a longtime client of mine, shared the following story with me.

One Chol Hamo’ed Sukkos, his son Chaim* felt ill. When he suddenly fainted, Hatzolah recommended that Chaim visit the local hospital. There, his parents were told that Chaim’s condition seemed very serious, and he was quickly transferred to a Manhattan hospital.

As the sun set over the city skyline, Yeruchem felt a sense of dread. Yom Tov was coming, but all he could think of was the likely life-changing test results his family was awaiting.

On Simchas Torah morning, Chaim received a surprisingly positive prognosis, and Yeruchem, finally breathing again, went to a nearby shul for hakafos. Uprooted from his usual surroundings and dressed differently from most of the other congregants, he felt self-conscious and alone in a shul packed with people.

When he was called up for an aliyah, he was asked why he was in the shul that day. He shared his story, and the shul erupted in cheers and shouts of heartfelt joy, after which Yeruchem was given the honor of leading the first hakafah.

“The hakafos were short because most of the people needed to run back to the hospital. But I’ve never felt more proud to be a part of Klal Yisrael than I did in that half hour,” he later told me. “It was the first time that I realized how connected we all truly are.”

Since then, when Simchas Torah comes each year, I remember Yeruchem’s story and feel the genuine love that Yidden have for one another.

Mrs. Shainy Hirth

Mrs. Shainy Hirth is the mother of Malky Hirth a”h, a young cancer patient who rocked the world with her emunah and positivity.

Malky a”h spent her last Sukkos on the oncology floor of Johns Hopkins Hospital. Despite being extremely weak, she insisted on eating every meal in the sukkah, located on the hospital’s ground floor.

We were finally discharged on Hoshana Rabbah morning, and we settled in at our friends’ home on the campus of Ner Yisroel.

On Simchas Torah night, Malky insisted on going to watch hakafos, so we wrapped our shivering little daughter in blankets and walked to the Ner Yisroel shul. Because she wasn’t allowed to be near people, Malky stood outside as my husband and the roshei yeshivah, Rabbi Neuberger and Rabbi Berkowitz, danced for her. Malky beamed; she couldn’t get enough of the singing and dancing.

Later that night, Malky developed a fever, and we rushed back to Johns Hopkins.

The next morning, Malky wanted to experience the celebration of Simchas Torah once again. My husband, three Vizhnitzer chassidim,and a Karliner chassid from Eretz Yisrael organized hakafos in the education room on the 11th floor. Equipped with only an ArtScroll Chumash and a tallis, the men gave each other kibbudim,learned each other’s niggunim, and sang and danced. Malky, the girl whose love of mitzvos could never be extinguished, smiled as she listened to the singing.

Malky reminded us all that even in the darkest times, a Yid should be happy.

Simcha Leiner

Simcha Leiner recently released his latest album, Home.

As a young bachur, I went to Yerushalayim’s Stolin-Karlin shul for hakafos shniyos (on Simchas Torah for those from chutz laAretz, Isru Chag for those living in Eretz Yisrael). Karlin is famous for its music, and I was there to watch the band, which blew me away.

My neighbor, who knew that I played the flute, recognized me in the crowd. He handed me a flute and pushed me onto the band stage.

Nobody noticed me at the back of the stage, playing the flute along with the Karlin band on Simchas Torah. I was playing for myself that day, and it was one of the highlights of my career.

*Name has been changed