I am 24 years old. For as long as I can remember, dance has been my life. I had great aspirations for becoming a full-time professional dancer, but six months ago, I had a bad fall and broke my leg in several places. I was devastated! Being young, the doctors wereI had a bad fall hopeful that I’d recover fully and be able to return to dance. But I have not, and they have lost their optimism. I feel like I’ve lost meaning in life. Why would G‑d give me a talent and then take it away? I’m sad, depressed and angry. Why did G‑d do this to me?
Though G‑d and I are very close, He doesn’t usually confide in me. However, my first impression is that you’re looking at this all wrong.
It’s devastating to lose your ability to dance when it has been the focus of most of your life. But many people aren’t ever able to use such talents, and often feel frustrated and unfulfilled. You’ve had two decades of dancing! That’s a reason to be thankful and joyful.
Don’t look at all the years you won’t be able to dance; look at the years you have been blessed with the ability to do so. And remember the lifespan of a dancer in terms of her career isn’t very long. This question would have arisen at some point down the line.
We are given our blessings—be they talents, good looks, money, status—only to serve G‑d. Our wheel of fortune turns in accordance with our destiny. In other words, G‑d gives us our talents based on His desire for us to use them in serving Him.
Maybe G‑d doesn’t want you to give up dance entirely, but to take it in another direction. While you may not be able to dance professionally anymore, you can use your talents in other ways. You can work with disabled children, learn dance therapy, choreograph for summer camps. You don’t have to give up your love for dance, just tweak it slightly.
The most worrying part of your anger and depression is that you have let dance define you. You are a valuable person because you are a Jewish woman. A Jewish woman is called a princess, a daughter of the King. You have intrinsic value by being alive and being you, quite apart from how many pirouettes you can do.
This is true of everyone. Too many people define themselves by their talents, careers, fortunes or social standing. But this has nothing to do with who they really are. And you are lucky in that you are learning this early in life.
The purpose of a Jew is to do mitzvot. That’s a Jew’s calling. That’s a Jew’s career. You can certainly do mitzvot while being an artist, dancer, singer, painter or writer by using your talents in serving G‑d and revealing Him in your art. But if you lose your talent for whatever reason, this doesn’t prevent you from serving G‑d. Because serving Him is a 24/7/365 gig—no matter who, what or where you are—and it doesn’t require any special skills or talent. And you have talent! Dance requires discipline, and you can use the discipline you have honed in dance in keeping G‑d’s commandments.
A special way you can serve G‑d (and very meaningfully, too) is by accepting this veryServing Him is a 24/7/365 gig difficult trial with love, understanding that while you don’t know why this has happened, you accept His will and know that He has something better for you down the line.
Every mention of women dancing in the Torah and the Tanach—and there are several—refers to dancing as a means of praising G‑d in joy. In Talmudic times, on the 15th of the month of Av, the women would go dancing in the fields wearing white dresses that they had exchanged with each other so that the eligible young men could each choose a wife. But I assure you, they weren’t looking at their dancing ability; they were looking at these girls’ potential for serving G‑d with joy and building a happy Jewish home in Israel.
May your heart dance when your feet cannot, and may you serve G‑d with joy wherever your legs take you.