We began the Torah service, and the rabbi motioned for me to come to the bima and be the second gabbai. There are always, in addition to the lucky recipient of the blessing, three people at the bima: a reader, and two gabbaim. The gabbai follows along from a printed book and corrects mistakes the reader might make when chanting from the scroll, which is bereft of all useful hints like vowels, notes, or punctuation. It's usually a rabbi's job, but the two present this morning were both chanting, leaving one spot empty. And since my eyes were still open and I seemed able to stand, I became a likely candidate.
My synagogue takes very seriously the injunction to read the Torah without any errors. This terrified me at first, until I realized that the gabbaim were calm and kind, and just like a life jacket; there would always be a whispered prompt, if ever I began to drown. I was a gabbai once before, during the High Holy Days. Not even the Red Sea appearing and parting right there in the sanctuary would have made me look up from the book. I was sure all Jewish people everywhere would know if I missed a mistake, and be disappointed.
The rabbi who read first was operating on less sleep than us all, and he did stumble just a little on the trope. The other rabbi, much to my relief, jumped in each time even before I noticed anything was wrong. So I stood there in silence for a few minutes following every letter with my fingertip as he sang about thunder, lightning, and the laws we were now bound to follow.
He finished, and it was my turn to read. We switched places at the bima.
"Would you like to say the blessing?" he asked.
It wasn't a big deal; I've had aliyot before. But I started to shake. This new Torah--it really was for me. He asked my Hebrew name and I couldn't remember, and began to stammer. I was verklempt. The rabbi smiled. I finally took a deep breath and manged to form the words, and started to chant. The melody left me a few times, but both rabbis were there to push me back on the path.