All My Bones Cry Out to the Lord

Jewish dance from the Bible to Hasidism.

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Nahman of Bratzlav, great-grandson of the Ba'al Shem Tov, believed that to dance in prayer was a sacred command, and he composed a prayer which he recited before dancing. He and other Hasidic rabbis called for dancing on all festive occasions and even on the solemn days of the Ninth of Av, Rosh Hashanah, and the Day of Atonement.

During the celebrations on Simhat Torah, the usual processions with the scrolls reached a climax in the rabbi's own dance. Wrapped in a prayer shawl, with a scroll held high in his hands, the rabbi danced with spiritual ecstasy as the Hasidim sang and clapped hands in a circle around him.

The Hasidim danced on Friday nights around the rabbi's banquet table, and at twilight on Saturday they danced with mystical fervor. Hasidic dancing has influenced the celebrations at Jewish festivals generally, and has served as the basis and inspiration of choreography on Jewish themes in ballet.               

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Amnon Shiloah

Amnon Shiloah is Professor of Musicology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Dvora Lapson

Dvora Lapson (1907-1996) performed, choreographed, and researched Jewish dance. She served as director of the Dance Education Department of the Board of Jewish Education in New York, and was an instructor in Jewish dance education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.