We would farbreng until very late on these final nights of the festival, but still had to be careful that we were not noticed. There were a few years that we had to take off our shoes for the traditional hakafos dancing on Simchas Torah. We danced in our socks for hours, and we sang in hushed tones so the neighbors would not overhear us.

In the 1960s, we had the novel idea to convene for dancing at the main shul in the old city. Long after the prayers, once everyone had finished with their festive meal at home, and after the farbrengen had wound up, we made our way to the shul. It was nearly midnight and the city streets were deserted.

A few of us hurried ahead of the group and climbed over the fence that surrounded the yard of the shul, to unlatch the front gate for everyone else. When the entire group had assembled, we entered through the front gate and headed straight into the sanctuary, where we began to dance with unadulterated joy and song. Those were the days before electric timers, so the lights were all still on, leaving the sanctuary brightly illuminated. Finally we were able to revel in an authentic hakafos, grasping Torah scrolls in our arms, with unrestrained singing and dancing. Our hearts soared with the rhythm of the Chassidic tunes, and our joy knew no bounds.

One year, after the farbrengen, I strode the streets of the old city along with my dear friend Yaakov Lerner. It was late at night and with all the l'chaims, we had had quite a bit to drink. We approached every Jewish person we came across in the street to offer our festive greetings, wishing each one 'a good Yom Tov'.

Suddenly, Yakov spotted a Jew who had started walking toward us. "Hilke!" he warned me, "that's my teacher, and the assistant principal of the elementary school. Don't you dare go over to him!

Yaakov was afraid, but I was in high spirits and wanted to dance with another Jew in the street in honor of Simchas Torah. Seeing that I was heading toward his lecturer, Yaakov tried to distance himself from me, but I grabbed him and together we approached the man. I said, “Today is Simchas Torah and we are all Jews, so come, let us dance together!”

Yaakov shuffled his feet uncomfortably and quickly interjected: “Don’t pay any heed to him. He’s drunk. I don’t know him; he met me on the street and refuses to leave me alone.”

With thanks to the One Above, all ended well and my friend did not suffer any negative consequences. I have since heard that this man immigrated to Israel and became a Torah observant Jew.

On another Simchas Torah, of an earlier year, as we strolled in the direction of the shul for the dancing, we were disappointed to see that that members of our community had already completed the official dancing in shul. Aftertheir hurried dancing session, they had returned home, and at the conclusion of their meal, went to sleep in their beds. We resolved to gather some of the older men, who were already asleep, and include them in our hakafos. We walked in groups of twos and threes with R. Berke Chein at our lead. (This, of course, was only after R. Berke had been reinstated as a legal Russian citizen.)

When we arrived at the home of a member of the community, we knocked at the door and once the man had been rudely awoken, he would demand: “What is it that you want? We are sleeping!”

R. Berke, who was the oldest of our little group, would say: “Please open up.”

The poor fellow wouldn’t dare to refuse R. Berke, and once we entered the house, the “show” began. R. Berke would approach the stunned householder and chastise him, saying: “Sleeping now, on the last night of Sukkos? It seems you are gravely sick—let me feel your heartbeat.”

After pretending to examine him, R. Berke would say: “Aha, you have a serious illness indeed. It’s not a physical illness, but a spiritual illness. Don’t be upset. I have good medication for you. Learn a chapter of Tanya every morning before your prayers. But we have to do something quickly to immediately remedy the situation..."

R. Berke would call over one of the men in our group, bottle of vodka in hand, and then turn back to the homeowner: “I am an excellent doctor for illnesses such as these. Just open your mouth and my assistant here will pour in some medicine, straight from the bottle. Don’t be afraid. It’s has a bit of a sting, but trust me, I have lots of experience with this. After you take the medication, you will immediately get up and join the dancing with us, and you will be as good as new, completely healed!”

R. Berke would perform the act so superbly that we would be clutching our sides in laughter. It was utterly impossible to go back to sleep after R. Berke’s treatment. They all drank the l’chaim that we, the esteemed doctor’s faithful assistants, made sure went down their throats. Naturally, after drinking a little, they joined the dancing as R. Berke had predicted, and even if they didn’t come to join the dancing at shul, enjoying a good night's sleep was definitely no longer on their agenda...