Sunday, March 06, 2005

Even in my younger days, I wasn't one of those nimble-footed inner circle dancers. I was never the type to attempt a kazatzka or, God forbid, a bull dance. Strictly yeshiva shuffle. Even a hora would cause me a bit of anxiety about losing the rhythm and throwing the whole circle out of whack. Fortunately, now I'm old enough that nobody even expects me to do any better than dutiful outer circle trudging.

A recent wedding has dredged up memories of the days when, in the midst of the familiar circle dances, the band would suddenly shift into some slow Miserlou-type niggun, and the guys' circle would just sort of break up. I would watch the women do these highly stylized dances, thinking that there was something fake about the exaggerated exhibition of benignness in those oh-so-delicate steps and gestures. I owe those women an apology.

This week I attended a cousin's wedding. A truly wonderful event it was. The friends of the bride were dressed in the mitnachelet layered schmatteh look and the married ones had layered schmattehs on their heads too. It's some kind of simple back-to-nature natural-fabric granola thing wrapped up with spiritual-authenticity-seeking tznius-frumkeit something or other. Whatever. But here's the thing. Some of these schmatteh ladies shrieked and boogied with a level of vulgarity that made me hanker for the Miserlou.

Now, I'm not the world's vulgarity nanny and I ordinarily would take no notice of it if I didn't have the distinct impression that these people are actually being tzulost in the name of frumkeit. Somehow a frum rebellion against the artifices of middle-class posturing has transmogrified into a rebellion against civilization itself. The lack of gracefulness is bad enough, but I fear that something even greater is being lost.

My Eishes Chaver has directed some movies and has on occasion pointed out to me how people who are (or have been) frum actually move differently than most other people. They tend to move less spontaneously, as if they bear some burden, as if each step and each gesture needs to be sub-consciously weighed even if only for a few milliseconds.

If there is such a thing as yiras shamayim on this earth, it lies in those few milliseconds.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I would watch the women do these highly stylized dances,"

tsk tsk

3:43 PM  
Blogger Rebeljew said...

"It's some kind of simple back-to-nature natural-fabric granola thing wrapped up with spiritual-authenticity-seeking tznius-frumkeit something or other."

It is probably less a frumkeit rebellion and more a "let them try to take our homes" or a "we're ready for guerrilla warfare" type of rebellion. As the fist grips, the mitnachalim become more flagrantly defiant, in every aspect.

You may not be the vulgarity nanny, but what a job that would be, heh? Only an unflappable Rav or his son gets that job, not a mortal human.

4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"(the) frum actually move differently than most other people. They tend to move less spontaneously, as if they bear some burden, as if each step and each gesture needs to be sub-consciously weighed even if only for a few milliseconds."
------------------------
Indeed - and it could also be observed that the burdened, restrained behavior has less to do with yiras shomayim, and more to do with the marginalized, dependent existence of the golus Jew - and the oppressive, fishbowl life of the modern Jewish community.

(I will believe that this awkwardness is due to yiras shomayim when sharply turned out bochrim stop asking what the kallah's MOTHER's dress size is before agreeing to a shidduch...)

... and maybe the settler movement is just what The Doctor ordered for yidden - people unself-consciously living before G-d. Yes, there is a bit of playing dress-up hippie, but they put both golus frummer and secular Israelis to shame with their underlying core of sincerity.

Like many ashkenazim, I first was slightly embarrassed at my first Yemenite Jewish wedding, when the women broke out in the traditional ullulations of joy. Now I envy the ability to be so spontaneous.

We have been ruined - there is a little internalized Woody Allen hiding in the frummest of us.

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe it's yiras shomayim.

But I know that, esp. if you are familiar with the age group, watching someone walk (esp the women) I can tell what schools they prob went to and when, even when I control for current dress, or am guessing from walking behind them. There's the mincing walk of women who went to high school when the BY dress code required long straight skirts with sewed up slits - they carry that right over even when they are wearing long flowing skirts. There's the hunched shoulders that are only common among graduates of certain beis yaakovs. And so on.

12:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am impressed that you managed to write this post without using the word girl (or hair).

1:08 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Rebeljew,
You wrongly assume that everything mitnachalim do has to do with politics. This is not true. (I myself am a mitnachel -- even if I don't appreciate the local aesthetic.)

Anonymous2 (get a handle dammit),
I didn't say the hesitation was the result of yiras shamayim; I said it *is* yiras shamayim. As for mitnachel unselfconsciousness and sincerity, I'm neither unselfconscious nor sincere and in fact I don't even like sincerity all that much. (See http://benchorin.blogspot.com/2004/06/im-hypocrite-about-lots-of-things-but.html )

3:13 PM  
Blogger Conservative Apikoris said...

Somehow a frum rebellion against the artifices of middle-class posturing has transmogrified into a rebellion against civilization itself.Since when is a little vulgarity a "rebllion against civilzation?" Only someone (or something) with civilization would know they are being vulgar.

I believe that the ability of be vulgar is what distinguishes human from other animals.

4:13 PM  
Anonymous desperate balabusta said...

Perhaps you are mistaking vulgarity for what is simply passion. They believe passionately and they also dance passionately. Personally, I stopped dancing at simchot years ago when it became a spectator sport.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Conservative Apikorus,
Forgive me for going off-topic here but there's something I'm not getting. I can vaguely see the advantage to you of being frum Conservative rather than frum Orthodox, but if you're taking the apikorus path anyway, why not go whole hog and be an Orthodox Apikorus? Conservative Apikorus sounds oxymoronic to me.

6:40 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:41 PM  
Blogger Rebeljew said...

Ben

The very existence of mitnachlim is political in nature, why they are there (to make contiguous foreign control difficult), how they practice religion (i.e. to inhabit eretz yisroel and exert sovereignty over it) etc. Not that they must all have the same politics, I am just saying that this fervor pervades every aspect of their lives, especially in outlying suburbs, including their dancing and social style.

Anything that drives away the malaise of walking in a circle in a deafening racket (akin to the method used to drive the terrorists from the Church of Nativity) and occasionally bouncing up and down is OK by me.

9:18 PM  
Blogger Ben Mavet said...

Rebeljew, this is simply ridiculous. Most mitnachlim are in the "territories" for economic or quality-of-life reasons - originally encouraged by your favorite left-wing heroes (such as Rabin). Of course, you only hear about the "wackos", but that's usually the case.

That said, I do agree with your comment about "walking around in circles" (though I too am getting to the age where I can semi-unselfconsciously shuffle around the outermost circle and stop to schmooze with friends). But why does it seem impossible for us to find the middle ground between vulgarity and ultra-decorousness? I find the notion that "Woody-Allen-hood" is the only remnant of yiras shomayim very disturbing...

6:54 PM  

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