The Mitzva Tantz

There is an interesting custom in most Chassidic circles for some of the distinguished guests at a wedding to dance with the bride, a custom known as the “mitzva tantz.”[1] It is suggested that the origin of the mitzva tantz can be found in the Talmud. As the Talmud asks, “How do we dance in front of the bride…we sing that she is ‘beautiful and full of grace’” which Chassidic authorities cite as support for the mitzva tantz.[2]The mitzva tantz usually takes place toward the end of the wedding celebration, after Birkat Hamazon has been recited.[3]

The "dance" in this context is unlike what one might think. Rather, the bride holds one end of a long rope or gartel while her dancing "partner" holds the other end.[4] In most cases, it is just the partner who actually dances to the music, while the bride remains stationary.[5] In most Chassidic circles, the father of the bride is permitted to hold her hand for the mitzva tantz without the interposition of a rope. In some communities, the groom also dances with the bride hand-to-hand, while in other communities, he uses a rope like everyone else.[6]

The mitzva tantz, with its distinguished participants, is said to be a way of bestowing honor and happiness upon the bride and groom.[7] It is also written in Chassidic literature that the mitzva tantz arouses Divine mercy. Common custom is for guests from the bride's side to be honored with the opportunity to dance with her first, followed by guests from the groom's side. In many communities, those who are not married are asked to leave the wedding hall before the mitzva tantz begins.[8] There are also those who hold a mitzva tantz at the customary celebratory meal that is held before a wedding takes place. In the Bobov community, a mitzva tantz takes place on the Shabbat following the wedding, as well.

It is customary that the songs played during the mitzva tantz include various renditions of the well-known eishet chayil poem. Although it is called the "mitzva tantz," this ceremony is not a "mitzva" per se, but rather, merely a custom. It is interesting to note that although the custom of holding a mitzva tantz is found exclusively in Chassidic circles, it actually pre-dates the Chassidic movement by several hundred years, as it is mentioned in the works of the Maharil and the Machzor Vitri.

[1] Likutei Maharich, Nisuin; Shulchan Ha’ezer Vol. 2 p.79; Minhagei Komarna 127; Minhag Yisrael Torah, EH p. 207.

[2] Ketubot 16b. But see Pitchei Teshuva, EH 65:2 for some opposition to the mitzvah tantz custom.

[3] Nisuin K'hilchatam Chapter 13, note 89.

[4] Be'er Moshe 4:131.

[5] Hanesuin K'hilchatam Chapter 13, note 89.

[6] Be’er Moshe 4:132.

[7] See Beit Shmuel, EH 21:11.

[8] Mishne Halachot 7:249.