Dancing Around the Issue, Part 2

(Continued from here)

Does an event like “Dancing With the Rabbis” present some beyond-the-pale crossing of a line?

One of my friends thinks so. He says:

“I think in this case, with the rabbis having so thoroughly dispensed with their dignity to raise some money – that is so far gone that it has nothing to do with liberal Judaism. I can’t imagine anyone thinking this is a good idea or that it is representative of any facet of Judaism.”

How does this event differ from, say, a few Hazans getting together to raise money by holding a “3 Cantors” event to raise money? How does it differ from 3 Rabbis doing the same? For that matter, what about a “Funniest Rabbi” competition (and Purim party)?

How is this fundraiser different from all other (cheesy, kitchy, just this side of tacky) fundraisers?

Where’s the line? Who draws it? Why does there even need to be a line in the first place?

My friend is ready with his response:

“The line is drawn around men and women dancing together in public, really. Or touching in a romantic fashion. It is ok (depending on your interpretation) for those one of those 3 Cantors to be a woman. But it would probably be NOT OK for them  – if one were a woman – to be crooning “‘Til there was you” complete with staging.

Ballroom dancing is simply never chaste, in my opinion – whether it’s swing, cha cha, especially Tango (ask a Brazilian about it some time)… even waltzes were meant to have the man and woman become swept away.”

There’s a joke that goes with this, which you may skip if you’ve heard it:

A guy goes to a Rabbi and says “I want to convert to Judaism.”
The Rabbi is, of course, trying to discourage him. “You know, of course, that being Jewish means giving up cheeseburgers, pork, and shellfish.”
The man is unmoved: “I don’t have a big problem with any of that.”
The Rabbi continues “And you’ll be forced to take off work every Saturday, and numerous times throughout the year.”
The man says “Extra days off? Why, that would be a plus.”
The Rabbi, thinking he understands the guy, says “Well, we don’t allow men and women to dance together. It’s inappropriate for many reasons.”
The man replies, thoughtfully, “Wow, my wife won’t necessarily like that, she loves to go dancing… but it’s important. Ok, I can live with that too.”
The man continues, “Rabbi, what about… you know… what about… sex? Are there restrictions on positions, for example?”
The Rabbi chuckles and says “No, my boy, we allow just about any position. Oh, except for standing. You aren’t allowed to have sex while standing.”
The man, puzzled, says, “Why no sex while standing?”
“Because,” says the Rabbi, “it could lead to dancing.”

I’m not sure I buy it.

Of course I get that, in some Jewish circles, men dancing with women is taboo. The “why” of it varies: because it involves touching which could lead to sexual contact; because the woman involved may be tammei (ritually impure) and so contact is forbidden; etc.

I also get that this may be where I stand now. If not because I believe in it wholeheartedly, then because it comes as part of the package with the things I *do* believe in. I don’t expect every mitzvah to be a slam-dunk. Some are going to be a struggle and this may be one of them.

But I also get, as I presented in part 1, that there are lots of Jews for whom none of these aspects are an issue. And I simply can’t allow myself to view something as unilaterally wrong that would have seemed completely benign to me just two or three years ago.

For now, I’ll continue to sidestep this issue, and shuffle off to Buffalo.