Sunday, February 20, 2005

14. The world to come

It was completely right from the beginning, like falling in love. But it took me a long time to trust. It was easier to say that I had doubts than to admit I had none. This congregation, like the Pope, was very serious about prayer--in their own way, with a different kind of choreography. They prayed like Mrs. B played the piano, with their entire bodies, with clapping and rabbis pounding on the bima, anathema to my usual ideas about dignity. I felt both silly and liberated around all that earnest, honest emotion. Eventually I got over myself and did it, too.

I came here to write about a thought I had while helping lead services two weeks ago. I decided that I finally understood about Shabbat as a glimpse of the world to come, the time when the Messiah will arrive and all things will be peaceful and good. I started writing about a feeling that slipped in and out like mercury as I stood at the bima, like a flash of light too bright to watch for more than a second. And then I read it back and thought--am I nuts? All I did was sing. Overstuffed, hyperbolic language. Get over myself. (I sounded like a surfer for months after the High Holy Days--the only words I could come up with were "awesome" and, sometimes, a little calmer, "overwhelming.")

But I did feel that. I felt everyone praying with me; if my arms had been longer, I might have touched it. I don't yet trust this part, even though I know it's right.

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