Tonight was the fifth time I've helped lead services. Each instance has left me more amazed, confused, and drowning in endorphins than the last. An unexpected sensation is starting to feel familiar: the prayer leaves the bima, and then it comes back. God has given us a strange sort of yo-yo. Or it's like a photographer bouncing light off of a reflector, hitting all the right shadows until the eyes behind the lens can see enough to do their job. After the first or second prayer, when I've figured out the evening's particular choreography (the three of us will rotate; concentrate on my peripheral vision to know when she wants me to start) and remembered how to breathe and forgotten that I still don't believe I've been asked to do this (each time more casually than the last, this one as a p.s. in an email), I look up from the siddur and see people smiling, always one or two in the front so peaceful that I'm jealous. I want to know what they're thinking. Then a rolling wave seems to gather from the back of the sancuary and find us up front. It becomes the current in a river of communication between people I can't see--the cantor at his keyboard, shaliach tzibur to my right, cellist and drummer behind us--until I feel like we're gathered in one small space, about to embrace.
The rabbis also emanate this energy. The first time I stood next to one of them during services, it felt like a gust of wind about to knock me over. I thought I'd fall if I didn't hold on to the bima. Force and temperature are a little different for each rabbi, one the insistent sway of wheat on a plain, another the blowing of fall leaves in a spiral.
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