Mosh Pit Hora

By Ferida Wolff

The wedding ceremony was over. The guests had gathered in the dining area waiting for the formal introductions. First came the parents of the groom. Next came the parents of the bride. All eyes were turned toward the entrance, eager for their first glimpse of the newly wedded couple. It was like the beginning of most wedding receptions. And then it wasn’t.

The bride and groom burst jubilantly into the room and onto the dance floor. And the hora, the traditional Jewish circle dance, began.

This was not the kind of hora where the principals danced and the guests stood around and clapped. No, this was an all-out full participation hora where the dance floor was packed and throbbing. Circles within circles wove in opposite directions. Arms waved high in the air. Bodies bumped. People shouted. Eddies of twirling couples formed and reformed as partners were exchanged, and then became absorbed back into the larger circles only to break out again somewhere else. Lines snaked around the room, eventually dissolving into the wildness of the dance. It was a mosh pit hora energized by the incredible spirits of the bride and groom and the joy exuded by everyone else.

It isn’t often that you hear mosh pit and hora in the same sentence. They would seem to be generationally incompatible. This was not, after all, at a teen rave but a Jewish wedding held in a sedate conservatory filled with the calming lushness of green plants and flowers. Yet here the old and the contemporary, the traditional and the radical co-existed and drew power and vitality from each other in a dance that resulted in a multi-generational affirmation of life.

I had expected to be caught up in the tumult, being the mother of the groom and the veteran of many wedding horas, but even I was amazed at what occurred. For fifteen minutes nothing existed except for the hora. It was in irresistible vortex of energy that consumed everyone.

One of my son’s friends who was not Jewish and had never seen, no less been in, a hora, came up to me at the end of the evening and said that he wanted that dance we all did in the beginning, what was it called? The hora. Yeah. He wanted that at his wedding. He wanted his family and friends to experience the thrill of it, to have his wedded life begin on such a welcoming high note.

The photographer captured it all: The broad smiles, the whirl of the movement, the laughter that could almost be heard in the still photographs. Each time I look at the wedding album, it brings back the exhilaration.

It reminds me of a class I had been in where the rabbi conducting it had asked us what we would do if we knew this was to be our last day on earth. One woman said she wouldn’t do anything different; just continue with her day as if it were any other. A man said he would try to cram as much into that day as possible. I said I would dance. I don’t know why I said that. The thought just popped into my head with a full measure of joy. I could feel my feet trembling with the eagerness to jump, to dance, to fling myself upward in an exuberant expression of farewell. The rabbi said that dancing is a way of lifting off the earth, of releasing ourselves from its density and bringing us closer to Heaven. It sounded right in my mind but it was my son’s wedding hora that engaged my full understanding.

That hora changed my behavior at all the weddings I go to now, as well. I used to participate in it as a ritual. I now dance with my whole heart, offering the newly wedded couple the kind of energy and enthusiasm that lifted everyone’s spirits when my son and daughter-in-law led us in the hora of a lifetime. It was a gift to us then and continues to be a gift, one that keeps renewing itself as often as it is shared.

About this writer

  • Ferida Wolff Ferida Wolff is author of 17 books for children and three essay books for adults. A frequent contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, she also writes for newspapers and magazines, online at www.grandparents.com and is a columnist for www.seniorwomen.com. Her website is www.feridawolff.com, and her newest book is Missed Perceptions: Challenge Your Thoughts Change Your Thinking (Pranava Books 2009).

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