Amidst our people here is come
The madness of the dance.
In every town there now are some
Who fall upon a trance.
It drives them ever night and day,
They scarcely stop for breath,
Till some have dropped along the way
And some are met by death.
So goes a grim ditty from the Straussburgh Chronicle of Kleinkawel, 1625, describing another outbreak of ‘dancing mania’. Manic dancing was first mentioned in the 14th C., and sporadic outbreaks are described in the 15th, 16th, and 17th C.
The first major outbreak of dancing mania was in Aix-la-Chapelle in July of 1374. A group of people was seen to dance uncontrollably in the streets, foaming at the mouth and screaming of wild visions. They kept on dancing until they collapsed from exhaustion, but even then they flailed about in agony until forcefully restrained.
Believe me, if they had watched Manhattan traffic, with the constant dance of cars in and around each other and the pedestrians prancing in between and in front of speeding cars, they would have known what is real manic dancing.
I don’t know about you, but I hesitate to play “chicken” with my car, but yesterday I seemed to be the only one. Cars switch lanes without looking, certainly not signaling. People jay walk just as you are about to cross the street and you end up stuck in the “Block” because you were silly enough to not simply run over the people who, by this time in my mind, or mood, deserved it.
It’s a dance of cars, people, double parked trucks, bicycles, surreys (without a fringe on top), pushcarts and people from a nearby state who cannot be called rivers! It’s exhausting. I asked Debbie to drive, and got her Argentine blood boiling. She pretended to be driving in Buenos Aires, or to be dancing a complex Tango. I closed my eyes, and we arrived home in record time.
“No more dancing today!” I declared. I was wrong, as usual. A different dance awaited me: The Dealing With Other People Dance. It’s even more complex and tiring than the dancing mania in Aix-la-Chapelle, the Manhattan traffic dance, or the Tango.
“Rabbi, I want you to be straight with me. Tell me what you think of my D’var Torah – Torah Thought. I insist.”
“OK. If you want me to be straightforward, I must tell you that not only does your idea make no sense, it actually borders on heresy.”
“How could you say that?”
I tried explaining and the dance began. It was a mistake to take him at face value and speak my mind about his convoluted and twisted thought. I had to make nice and work my way around his feelings, bobbing and weaving, verbally leaping and prancing, until I could respectfully disagree and not ruin a twenty-year relationship.
Hold on one second! Why have I maintained a twenty-year relationship with someone who only wants to verbally dance around ideas and feeling? Is this relationship another dance form?
I have been dancing around an unrewarding relationship for so long because I dance to society’s music of social norms.
I knew that all the steps seemed familiar and natural when I learned ballroom dancing. I have been dancing all my life.
Well, I officially announce that I am removing my dancing shoes. No more of this type of dancing for me.
Excuse me for a second: I’m sorry: I have to go to the city to pick up a package. I’ll just slip the shoes right back on. “Debbie! Can you drive?”
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