I chanted twelve verses of Vayakhel this past Shabbat. It was the section about Bezalel, with whom I've always felt a little kinship--he was a designer, too, working from his heart. I walked up to the bima, and remembered to ask the previous reader to show me where she left off. She did, and immediately some of the people who were there for the misheberach for healing kissed that spot with the corners of their tallitot. I looked down for a second and saw "Vayomer Moshe el b'nai Yisrael..." --"And Moses said to the children of Israel..." Cool. My fear of having learned the wrong section was baseless, as always. I was ready.
The blessings over, I took a deep breath and begin to sing. I got to the sixth word. It wasn't the sixth word I had learned. Nor was the seventh or eighth. Time stopped. Um, I think I said, um, sorry, I'm in the wrong place. My voice sounded very loud, and I realized I must have spoken right into the microphone. I heard the rabbi answer calmly, start again, and he leaned over and pointed out the correct "And Moses said to the children of Israel..."--in the next column over to the left. I took a deeper breath and started again. After the second sentence, my voice stopped wobbling. The rabbis congratulated me when I was done. All was well.
I learned a few good lessons. One, Moses said an awful lot of things to the children of Israel. Also, it's probably a good idea, in the future, to read more than five words to myself before beginning to sing. And, finally, even though I might be standing in front of a few hundred people, it's not about me, me, me. Even a pretty big mistake on my part will not stop the earth from turning.