This story does not end in triumph, or with a miracle. We walked over to the bima and started singing, and I had even fewer notes than when I was warming up. Maybe the stress of the situation closed all the muscles in my throat. I don't know. We made it through Hareni Mikabelet and the Birkat Ha'shachar, my favorite melody of the morning, which started on a series of high notes that I could still sing.
But as we continued, I felt my sounds drifting away and their remnants, to my ears, becoming faint and frog-like. I tried not to be horrified at what came out of my mouth, but could think only of the unpleasant experience I must have been creating for the congregation. I wouldn't want to sit there on the morning of a happy holiday and hear someone struggle. I knew the rabbi would step in if I stopped singing, but I didn't stop. Part of me hoped I would deduce some new method of breathing or standing that would make everything OK.
I looked out and saw the rabbi who had offered me her words of support. She was smiling, and I remembered that I was praying. So I tried to stop worrying about the performance, tried to ignore old, little voices suggesting that disaster would occur if I didn't do my best, tried to forget my fear that this gift I had been given by the rabbis and cantor, this privilege of offering song during which I felt closer to God than ever before, might never come again. I felt like Sisyphus, each note pushing the rock up a little higher only to have it fall down at the next. I felt very small, as if the walls of the church had expanded by magnitudes and I was suddenly far from everyone else.