Friday, August 19, 2005

149. Arrival

Because I try not to take the bus on Shabbat and also love strolling down West End Avenue, where it's easy to forget that the whole world isn't Jewish, I always aim to leave sufficient time to walk to services. This Saturday morning I allowed over an hour to travel the mile, just in case--I forgot how to walk en route? I got lost? Nothing happening in the universe at that moment seemed more important than my prompt arrival at the synagogue. I can't remember if it was hot or cold outside, and would have been oblivious to a blizzard. I do recall performing the entire service in my head to the rhythm of my measured steps on the pavement, nerves increasing exponentially with each block.

There were only a few people in the sanctuary when I arrived, and no one saw me sidle into the Secret Rabbi Room. Once I closed the door and looked around, it didn't seem quite as sacrosanct as I had imagined. (And now quoting myself--am I allowed to do that in a blog?--from back in February):

"I call it the Secret Rabbi Room. From a door behind the bima they emerge at the start of each service, mysterious as Israelites arising from the Red Sea. Or at least that's how it seemed until I got to see, and exit, the Room for myself. The one in the synagogue is a casual little lounge, with a tan leather sofa, photos of Israel, and the imposing locked back of the Ark along one entire wall. There's a pile of boxes filled with CDs, some old siddurim, and a mirror. It wouldn't be good to face the congregation with spinach on your teeth. During my moments of complete terror right before the first time I helped lead Shabbat morning services, I was excited to notice a Gemini II alarm panel on the wall. I was, coincidentally, in the middle of designing a Flash animation for an alarm company to show how to arm this very same panel after it was installed next to your front door. I tried to staunch torrents of adrenaline by contemplating the meaning of safety, whether in the real world or during prayer, but all I could think was: how weird is this. Some of my reality is here."

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