Sunday, April 10, 2005

50. Leaders

For each of the three holiday mornings, Shacharit was co-led by a rabbi and a member of the congregation. The teams rotated between service locations, so we had a different combination every day. The rabbi's role, at this early hour of the marathon, wasn't much more than announcing pages; everything else was done by the hazzan. My favorite was a rabbinic student, a woman with a dark, clear soprano voice who sang as if she was inviting us to join in a dialogue with her best friend. She had the most peaceful expression on her face, almost a smile, her eyes closing occasionally in emphasis or assent. This was not a performance, but rather a personal conversation that we were privileged to witness. I was frustrated when Shacharit ended and the next hazzan took over; I wanted this one to open the door wider so I could get more than just a glimpse of the object of her affection.

The Birkat Ha'shachar, the morning blessings, are sung on Shabbat in a minor key, which has always sounded a little ominous to me, as if we knew the recipient of our thanks wasn't sure of our sincerity. On Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur the blessings become major, a cascade of descending notes that gain momentum and leap into perfect fifths like the swoop of a bird buoyed by a gentle wind. The words are the same as usual, but speak on those days of unqualified gratitude and exultant hope. It's early and the sanctuary is still cool; the tune reminds me of the first days of April, poised between seasons and not yet too warm.

The holiday Shacharit melody stuck in my head like a pop song and kept playing over and over again. I went home and tried to re-create it like I would with "Jet Plane" a few years later, standing in front of the mirror and singing glorious expressions of thanks to my cat.

1 comment:

Glory said...

Your description of the woman Rabbinic student singing with utter peace to the object of her affection is lovely and moving. That's a feeling I've too rarely expreienced; unfortunately, I'm usually at the piano during our services, and concentrating more on the notes on the page. Certainly we were created to be musical creatures, and to use music in worship. Again, thanks for sharing.