The Powerful and The Powerless

Rabbi S. is the rabbi of our shul. In this post we will refer to him as The Rav.  The Rav is in his mid-forties, tall and thin, wears a streimel and a long black, coat on Shabbat, and is the quintessential embodiment of ve-ahavtah le-rei’akha kamokha. I could write a lot about The Rav, but in the interest of brevity, I will stick to one particular incident that I observed when I attended his shul this past Simchat Torah.

The types of shuls I have visited on Simchat Torah span the gamut of the religious spectrum, but no matter where I go the dancing is invariably lively and beautiful. Though it was my first time in The Rav’s shul, the scene that greeted me was a familiar one – hundreds of men dancing in concentric circles, their faces alight with the joy and enthusiasm that are so much a part of this time of year. But after watching for a few moments, I realized that I was observing a phenomenon that was quite unfamiliar to me, the likes of which I had not seen before.

What struck me first about the outer circles was the diversity of its constituents. There were men in khakis and knitted kipot alongside clean-shaven men in dark suits alongside bearded men in streimels and long, black coats. But it was the inner circle that really caught my eye. Because the men that linked arms in that circle were children – thirty little boys, hand in hand, stuffed, smiling sifrei torah dangling from their small fists, dancing. One adult danced with them – the Rav, tall and imposing, grasping the hands of two lucky little fellows, leading the circle. Watching this, I was reminded of a comment by R. Jonathan Sacks on Parshiot Behar-Bechukotai (5770): “The supreme power is on the side of the powerless.”

A former teacher arrived and initiated a conversation with me. By the time we finished, the children’s circle had disintegrated. I searched for the Rav and found him dancing in a circle of men. Watching him, I noticed this: every few moments he’d leave the circle and return clutching the hand of a man, who was smiling bashfully and beaming with pride. He helped the man navigate through the circles and into them, and once the man found his place in the gyrating sequence of men, The Rav was off in search of another fellow, standing on the sidelines, waiting to be noticed. I thought again of R. Sacks’ remark and how we must never become so great that we neglect to pay attention to others.

Join me for Simchat Torah, anyone?

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