| LifeTakes |

Let’s Dance

It was such a happy simchah, it was worth the pain.  Why did she pick me, though? I wondered

I never considered myself much of a dancer — and probably never will. My mother was graceful and could lead others in complicated steps. My father had two left feet. I take after my father.

Having attended enough simchahs over the years, I can haltingly follow the classic dance steps. I find it amusing when other non-dancers look at my feet to learn the moves. Still, when the beat of music quickens, I want to jump and kick up my feet.

In addition to my lack of coordination, over the last ten years or so, my knees have begun to protest strongly. At my kids’ weddings, I allow myself to release that 15-year-old girl who resides deep inside of me. I romp and hop to my heart’s content without embarrassment.  Having once observed a gracious acquaintance make it her business to dance with each guest in her circle, I learned to reach out to each dear friend who joined me in my simchah.  I pay for it with three weeks of burning knees.

And it’s worth it.

Recently I attended one of those “special” weddings. The daughter of my dear friend was getting married. We raised our kids together as the neighborhood grew up and got old. But my friendship with the kallah’s mother is bonded by blood — the blood of our beloved husbands who were both murdered in the Har Nof terror attack.

Attending this simchah and seeing another beautiful home being created in Klal Yisrael was witnessing a full circle from sorrow to joy. There were gossamer strands of sorrow hovering  — untouchable, but present. The kallah’s inner beauty outshined her gorgeous outer being. She was honored by the presence of the special needs young women with whom she spends her time. We were honored to see this regal princess dance within the circle of wheelchairs, taking the hands of each participant. It was breathtaking.

I joined the women in my age group doing the classic shuffle but, as is often the case, my hips began to ache, and after enough rounds, I backed away to be a spectator. The young lively contemporaries of the kallah were swirling and jumping far too exuberantly for me to even consider joining them.  I stood to the side and clapped my hands.

A woman came over to me and commanded, “Let’s dance.”

“OK,” I agreed good-naturedly.  Her turns and twists did demand a bit more than my knees cared to endure, but it was such a happy simchah, it was worth the pain.  Why did she pick me, though? I wondered.

I thought I knew the answer.  This woman had also gone through tragedy not so long ago.  Her precious daughter was found to have something sinister growing inside of her. Every available treatment was tried, but the malach hamaves was in too much of a hurry.  Before the family could absorb the illness itself, this beloved young daughter, wife, and mother was gone. Her mother, my dancing partner, tried valiantly to care for her orphaned grandchildren until their father remarried with his mother-in-law’s blessings.

She knew pain. She knew that joy can transcend pain. And she picked me as her dancing partner. She couldn’t have picked me for my dancing prowess.  My lack of ability was quite obvious.  And as she turned me under her outstretched arm, she told me she’d once taught dance.

But the beat of the music got me moving, and the energetic workout provided a release for my emotions, even as some of my joints protested.

The last song came to a close, and we ladies wandered back to our seats. I picked at my food while schmoozing with the women sitting with me. Everyone brought a special light to our table.

I thought I’d bentsh and wish our hostess a last brachah and goodbye, but my dancing partner caught my arm and suggested I stay for “one last dance.” I couldn’t refuse. The music blasted. We twirled, we swirled, until finally, I admitted that my knees were protesting too much. Besides, I’d had told my kids I would be home a half hour earlier.

I said my last goodbyes and left. As I headed in the direction of my home, my dancing partner raced up to me. After a few comments over the beautiful simchah, I raised my courage and asked the former dancing teacher why she wanted to dance with me.  I was sure her answer would be something with regard to my understanding what it is to mix simchah with pain and go beyond ourselves. I was all ears.

“Well,” my new dancing friend said, “I saw how you were bopping up and down to the music and was sure you loved dancing. Wasn’t I correct?”

Wow, I guess I can’t hide that 15-year-old girl so well after all.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 787)

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