Later that week I got a call from the cantor.
"How do you feel about the Torah service?" he asked.
Well, it's really beautiful and I like it a lot... no, that's not what he meant. "I feel... fine," I answered. The Torah service centers around the Torah and haftarah readings, done by members of the congregation, and the rabbi's d'var Torah (sermon). This is sandwiched between some prayers and the dramatic and theatrical removal from and return to the Ark of the scrolls. The cantor's role is minimal, although kind of showy. It's the part of the service that Bar and Bat Mitzvah kids at my synagogue get to sing each week, and I had heard it a million times.
"I need you to do the Torah service, too," he said. "First day of Rosh Hashonah. Maybe Yom Kippur."
Well, sure. You're the boss, anything you want. No, that's not what I thought. In fact, I was instantaneously flooded with rolling waves of monumental doubt and panic. Not that I would ever say no, and on the flip side of my disbelief was near-hysterical joy at the chance to do more. But I also felt like someone had just pushed me into a sea of liturgy slightly deeper than my head.
"So I'll be leading Shaharit and the Torah service both of those days," I said, trying to sort it all out.
"No, Shaharit all three days," he said. "First day Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur at the church, second day Rosh Hashonah at the synagogue." This was news to me; the original plan was for only two mornings. I tried to remind myself that the cantor wouldn't have asked me to do this if he didn't think I could, but his track record in that respect was no longer perfect--the pop singer, I learned, was out of the picture.
On another topic, I just read this post in Barefoot Jewess' blog. I was saddened by her eloquent description of why she, and so many American Jews, feel increasingly alienated. And it reminded me, once again, how lucky I am to have found the community I've been writing about.