The mitzvah tantz is one of Hasidic Judaism’s most bizarre rituals. It takes place at weddings, when the leading members of a community–a prominent rabbi or the bride’s new father-in-law, or both–dance before her.
According to the Talmud, it’s considered a great honor to entertain a new bride–and, specifically, to dance for her–during her wedding. In a culture where interactions between men and women who aren’t close relatives are usually brief and to-the-point, the mitzvah tantz is a rare direct interaction (and rare to watch, although several have made their way to YouTube).
In many of these videos, the dancing rabbi doesn’t make eye contact with the bride–he’s too involved in his performance, perhaps summoning spiritual concentration (or focusing on the physical footwork). The dance also offers an-often welcome break for the bride, who can temporarily rest from dancing, sit back, and be entertained.
A brief warning: As you can see in the video, this particular method of dancing isn’t a lot like the Charleston or the Electric Slide. If you’re ever asked to dance at the finale of a Hasidic wedding, though, just watch these films and you’ll know exactly what to do.
August 20, 2012