Role of Men in the Jewish Religious Dance

In the long history of Jews, dance played a major and significant role in their religious practices and observances. The prophets of the earlier Jewish period are known to have performed a type of ecstatic dance, which took them to the heights of trance. In their trance-like state, the prophets became a mouthpiece for God, because the spirit of GOD entered into the prophet and became one with him. Harvest and religious festival dances like Sukkos (Feast of the Tabernacle) and Shovous included ritual sacrifices. They were performed by men; women participated only as onlookers. Later in the 18th century Hasidism led by Israel Baal Shem Tov had all the congregation dancing but the Rabbi alone had the right to give sole-performances. 3 There is an interesting story from Hasidism about Baal Shem. One evening Baal Shem danced with his congregation holding the scroll of Torah in his hands. At one stage he laid the scroll aside and danced without it. At this moment one of his disciples who was intimately acquainted with his masterís gestures said to his companions. "Now our master has laid aside the visible dimensional teachings and has taken the spiritual teachings into himself." Thus in the life and history of the Jewish people, men had a very prominent place both in the execution and practice of religions dance. In Islam too, we find Religions dance in a limited way in the Sufi-Movement where male dancers are the norm.

 

 
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