Thursday, May 05, 2005

65. Under the gazebo roof

I got up early that morning and went running through the camp, first down a long gravel path surrounded by meandering forest and then out onto the main road, where cars whizzed by every few minutes and you might never know that just a few hundred yards away people were praying, singing, renewing themselves. I practiced my portion as I ran in order to warm up my voice and get in the habit of breathing, which I can forget when nervous. I wondered if nearby bears were confused at the sounds of Hebrew coming through their trees. (I've continued the habit; I always make sure to walk to services when I'm leading in order to give my lungs a little exercise, and on the morning of Rosh Hashonah I worked out on my rowing machine. I couldn't do this on Yom Kippur because I had a fever, but that's another story, which I will get to one of these days.)

We davened Shacharit, the morning prayers, under the gazebo roof, with the wide sky and sun-shimmering lake beckoning behind the small Ark. Then, for the Torah service, we moved the whole proceedings a few yards to a little pavilion on the lawn. The scroll was opened atop a small table and, with the wind blowing strands of hair in my eyes, I chanted my aliyot. Like before, I was suspended in time. Everything around me, the song of the birds, the bright green blanket of grass under my feet, a handful of curious kids to the left and right craning their necks to get a glimpse, receded into the distance, as if I was standing at the mouth of a cave and they were suddenly deep inside. There was nothing in the universe except myself, the scroll, and its words, each one full and rich as if it contained an entire dialogue with the writer.

Leter, as we were putting everything away, the rabbi turned to me and said, "You should do that more often!" After my ego returned to earth, I realized that I had to take up his challenge.

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