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Monday, February 13, 2006


Going around in circles

A number of years ago, I was at a Shaarei Torah weekend. During a panel discussion, one speaker (whose name escapes me) was talking about factionalism in Orthodoxy, and he closed his remarks with a profound poem by Edward Markham:

He drew a circle that shut me out
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout
But love and I had the wit to win;
We drew a circle that took him in.

Rabbi Wein, shlita, followed this speaker and said, "You stole my poem!"

Talk about backing into a story, right?

But I wanted to use that poem to address a growing trend I'm seeing at Orthodox weddings: Separate dancing.

Aha! Separate dancing! Of couse there's separate dancing! How can we allow mixed dancing?!

But of course, I'm not talking about co-ed dancing. I'm talking about the practice of each social group -- the choson and his friends, his father and their family friends, and the kallah's father and their family friends -- dancing in separate circles.

Why has this become so widespread?! What is going to happen if you end up dancing with -- or holding the hand of -- a stranger?! Do you think they have cooties?

If you want to tell me that the younger boys are more energetic and unruly, and their circles tend to be fast and high-impact, I grant that that is a legitimate observation. Which is why, very often, you'll see the wilder, faster circles in the center of the dance floor, and a slower, more mellow circle on the outer perimeter. But why separate into groups depending on which side you come from?

I think this factionalism represents another symptom of frum antisocial behavior, or FAB. It's the same disease that prevents otherwise normal people from greeting one another with gutt Shabbos when passing on the street, a problem that has already been well-documented.

To my mind, seeing three separate circles indicates that the machatonim don't get along. At the very least, it forces people to choose - I'm friends with the kallah, and with her father, but the choson is over there, and the real mitzva is to increase his joy, so where should I dance? It's just silly.

So, in my ideal wedding (which I've already had, BH), the machatonim dance together happily, and the circles are all concentric, with the higher-energy whirling dervishes in the center, and the slower-moving but equally happy folks on the outside. (I won't get into the discussion of violent and reckless behavior displayed by various young men at weddings, especially when alcohol is involved, for fear of going off on a tirade and losing this train of thought. But you know who you are.)

I realize that this is a fairly minor quibble in a world burning out of control with Muslim hordes, financial scandal, and tuition and shidduch crises. But still, a little achdus never hurt anybody.

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