By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
In a cosmic sense, a week before Rosh Hashanah, there was a community-wide unity of souls taking place right in the heart of the Five Towns. The venue was Beth Sholom in Lawrence, New York, a shul nearing its 100th anniversary, featuring the wedding of a ba’al teshuvah and a yesomah, who was also new to Torah observance. The wedding was sparsely attended.
Or so it was at the very beginning. Then word went out on a number of community WhatsApp chats and text messages. “Be mesamei’ach a chassan v’kallah—a tremendous opportunity by which we can usher in the New Year.” And in short order, hundreds of people arrived. People came from North Woodmere, Woodmere, Bayswater, Cedarhurst, Lawrence, Hewlett, Far Rockaway, Inwood, and from as far as Queens.
They came. They danced. And, in a Torah sense, they conquered. How so? These remarkable people made a chassan and kallah extremely happy. In doing so, they fulfilled the Torah mitzvah of v’ahavta l’rei’acha kamocha and the specific rabbinically mandated application of this mitzvah.
Adults of all ages joined the simcha: businessmen, speech therapists, occupational therapists, nurses, rabbanim, and retirees as well. Rabbi Shaul Chill, mara d’asra of the Young Israel of Far Rockaway, was the mesader kiddushin.
“What stood out the most was that so many talmidim and talmidos from the local schools arrived—it made the dancing,” remarked an elderly gentleman. “Just look at that circle of boys around the chassan,” he pointed. “It is unbelievable!”
“Tomorrow is the first day of school, and we will all be zonked, but who cares? This is such an amazing mitzvah!” remarked a young woman who attends TAG’s Machon Sarah High School for Girls in Far Rockaway.
After their night seder, Yeshiva Darchei Torah high-school students came to dance. Yeshiva of Far Rockaway boys also arrived at about the same time. There were talmidim from Mesivta Ateres Yaakov, DRS, and Netzach, and there were beis midrash bachurim from Yeshiva Zichron Aryeh and from other institutions as well.
Girls from the various schools in the Five Towns and Far Rockaway danced before the kallah, including students from TAG’s Machon Sara High School, TMM, Shulamith, SKA, HAFTR, and more. A young lady from Queens College studying neurobiology dropped everything to come dance with the kallah.
“It was an incredible vibe—everyone dancing together from the whole spectrum of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway,” remarked a young man from Netzach. “It was like Mashiach might arrive any moment.”
One of the guests, upon seeing the vast numbers of new arrivals, volunteered to go out and get more soda. After bringing them he remarked, “I got the sodas, but one of the waiters said he thinks we will need even more.” Just then, someone else arrived with more supplies.
Peter, one of the waiters who had arrived from Brooklyn, remarked, “I never saw anything like this. So many people just showed up. It was smart that we took the food from the reception and set it up in the ballroom so that the newcomers could also be fed.”
Someone else said of the dancing, “I just made a chasunah myself, and don’t tell my daughter—well, never mind—let’s just say that the atmosphere here is incredible. It ought to be replicated. Other communities do not have the unity that exists in this community.”
Toward the end of the evening, two Shulamith girls approached one of the people involved in the arrangements of the wedding with a request: “Would it be possible to be directly informed about such a wedding in the future? My entire school would love to come, and if there was some sort of direct chat, that would be great.”
One young man from Mesivta Ateres Yaakov remarked, “I didn’t hear about it from WhatsApp. I came because I got a call from my rosh yeshiva to come and fulfill the mitzvah of being mesamei’ach chassan v’kallah” (see Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer Siman 65).
“Throughout my daughter’s high-school years she had been attending and dancing at weddings such as this. Now she is in seminary in Eretz Yisrael, and I see what I have been missing all of these years. I should have done this years ago,” said a former MSHS parent, “It really highlights ‘Mi k’amcha Yisrael.’”
The Five Towns and Far Rockaway community has a lot to be proud of.
The author can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com. Read more of Rabbi Hoffman’s articles at 5TJT.com.