Monday, March 14, 2005

30. Understudy, part 1

So I went back to my seat (see #26). I was very hungry. I never remember to have breakfast before services, so by the time Musaf comes around at noon I'm ready to eat a horse (or, brisket). But I aways get distracted by the light, which helps me make it to 12:30. I love the light in the church at that time of day. Just as the Amidah begins, and sometimes while the bells are chiming noon, the sun starts to flow in through the stained glass and changes one side of everyone to yellow and white. Grey stone walls become the color of tea with honey, and the dark red carpet divides into long, gold columns. The light bouncing off the page of my prayerbook can be so bright that I can't even see the words.

I sat down in the pew, relieved the reading was over and ready to enjoy my aisle seat, light, and later, lunch. The rabbinic student who helped with the Torah service smiled and nodded to the rabbi, and went back to her seat. In the unique choreography of my congregation, this was the cue for someone else to step up to the bima and help lead Musaf. We never have just one shaliach tzibur, although the rabbis can certainly do this on one foot and while sleeping. I'm not sure of the origin of this custom--possibly they're trying to avoid projecting a monolithic, personality-driven rabbinate, or perhaps they just get lonely up there. Whatever the reason, we always have two service leaders and, if we're lucky, the cantor singing along from behind his keyboard.

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