Article by Rabbi Shimon Posner: With all this joy and dancing why then do we recite Yizkor? Is it not out of place with all this joy? But perhaps we recite Yizkor before we dance, because sometimes we need to remember to dance.
By Rabbi Shimon Posner – Shliach to Rancho Mirage, CA
Simchat Torah is far and away the happiest day of the year. Okay, Purim packs a nice punch, but as for unmitigated joy, dancing hour after hour, Simchas Torah reigns supreme. The Rebbe, many years ago, would literally dance throughout the night of Simchas Torah. And into the next day.
So with all this joy and dancing why then do we recite Yizkor, the somber memorial prayer for those who have passed? Is it not out of place with all this joy? But perhaps we recite Yizkor before we dance, because sometimes we need to remember to dance.
My father’s uncle and aunt and their children were desperately trying to escape the Nazis and made it to Riga, Latvia, which provided them relative safety — until it didn’t.
As I’ve heard the story, my great uncle was either in shul or ran to the shul, and the willing executioners boarded up the windows and doors and set the building on fire. His son, my father’s first cousin, came running to free his father but they caught him and threw him into the flames.
And as they the fire grew, those on the outside heard him singing. Singing the Hakafos Nigun, the song of the Simchas Torah dancing, and we presume that if he had the presence of mind to sing than he had the resolve to dance as well.
His name was Chatche Fagin, and by all accounts he was a master chosid and a master teacher. And perhaps the last lesson that he delivered when his body and soul were connected was that sometimes, when the world shouts to you something very much against dancing, you need to remember to dance.
I was born in safety and at times it is the noises inside my own head that crowd out any thought of dancing. And then I remember that I need to dance.
Good Yom Tov.