Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, in the final mishna of Ta'anit (4:8), speaks of women going into the vineyards on Yom Kippur and dancing for the unmarried men who would then choose wives for themselves. The women would borrow clothes for the occasion and, in order that they not embarrass anybody (Meiri), all of those clothes would require immersion. To my mind, this mishna is incongruous to the extreme.

Beitza 5:2 expressly forbids dancing on a shabbat. While I can deal with the prohibition of immersing clothes on a shabbat (Beitza 2:2, and cf: Shabbat 22:4) by suggesting that they washed them the day before, and while I can deal with the possibility that the women were all barefoot (Yoma 8:1), I know of no way to explain the fact that they were clearly dancing.

Am I to assume that חולות ("dancing", Ta'anit 4:8) and מרקדין ("dancing"; Beitza 5:2) are two completely different things, such that the former is permissible and the latter prohibited? Am I to assume that Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel is choleq on the tana qama in Beitza? Or am I to assume that, contrary to the plain-sense reading of this mishna, the dancing in vineyards was done on 15th Av only and not actually on Yom Kippur?

  • Through modern eyes I feel like if the men would watch the women in that way, then having that happen on a solemn day, including fasting and no sexual relations, could make it more modest and less superficial. Or it could be a way of focusing on the hope of restoration through the joy and continuity experienced in marriage. Maybe these things have nothing to do with the reality. But still, what if this custom was taking place and considered meaningful before the general prohibition on dancing on Shabbat was made, and then it was just allowed to continue (with no instruments?) at least by some?
    – Annelise
    Oct 12, 2013 at 13:46
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    Btw do you know whether the custom to wear white on Rosh Hashanah could have been also associated with Yom Kippur? It would make more sense of the 'not plain sense' reading you mentioned at the end if so, but it also brings a complication in that Rosh Hashanah isn't mentioned as a day when the garments are to be borrowed.
    – Annelise
    Oct 12, 2013 at 14:00
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    It may be worth noting that in the Mechon Mamre edition of the Mishnah (which claims to be based on the manuscript attributed to the Rambam) it says (Ta'anit 4:7[8]) "u-Vnot Yerushalayim Yotze'ot ve-Chonot ba-Keramim" ("ובנות ירושלים יוצאות וחונות בכרמים"), i.e. that they went out and waited (camped out?) in the vineyards.
    – Tamir Evan
    Mar 11, 2014 at 8:27

1 Answer 1


Dancing in the perfomance of a mitzvah is permitted, just like it is permitted on Simchas Torah.

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    Where's the mitzvah?
    – Shimon bM
    Dec 11, 2013 at 3:08

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