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9 Oct, 2023 13:42

Russia’s chief rabbi hospitalized after dancing accident

Berel Lazar reportedly suffered a concussion during an event dedicated to the Simchat Torah holiday
Russia’s chief rabbi hospitalized after dancing accident

Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar has been hospitalized with a concussion after suffering a fall while celebrating the Jewish Simchat Torah holiday in Moscow, his press service announced on Monday.

According to the chairman of the Public Council of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, Boris Gorukh, on Saturday the rabbi “danced until half past two in the morning, and at half past three in the morning he fell.”

Gorukh said he was unsure if Lazar had slipped or collided with another dancer, but stated that the rabbi was in the hospital and had undergone all the necessary health checks. He added that Lazar’s condition was stable and that his health was not in danger, although doctors recommended that he rest.

The Simchat Torah (Joy of the Torah) holiday is dedicated to the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings. On the day of holiday, which this year fell on October 7, there is an initial evening service after which all the synagogue’s scrolls are taken out of the Torah ark – an ornamental chamber that houses the sacred texts throughout the year. They are then carried around the sanctuary as worshipers dance, sing, and pray in celebration. The dancing can often last for hours and even spill outside the synagogue onto the streets.

As noted by Gorukh in a statement to News.ru, reports of the Hamas attack on Israel had already appeared before the celebrations began on Saturday. However, in light of those events, Rabbi Lazar told all the attendants that they should dance even more intensely than usual.

“Then the rabbi told us that we must fulfill the custom of dancing with the Torah more than always, putting pain and hope, faith and confidence into the dance, and so we will win,” Gorukh recalled, adding that Lazar’s injury was “the logical conclusion of this frenzied dance.”

The latest escalation between Hamas and Israel began early on Saturday, when the Palestinian militant group launched a surprise attack on multiple locations along the Gaza border, targeting numerous settlements and launching thousands of rockets. Israeli officials have estimated that over 700 people were killed in the attack and over 2,200 wounded.

In response, Israel has launched massive airstrikes on Gaza and is apparently preparing a ground operation against the Palestinian exclave. Israel officially declared a state of war on Sunday, invoking Article 40 of its Basic Law.