(I have more to say about Simchat Torah, but interrupting myself.)
Yesterday evening I emailed the cantor about reading Torah in November. He emailed back with some verses, and at the very bottom:
"By the way, can you lead services tomorrow?"
Well, let's see, let me check my calendar... I responded, needless to say, in the affirmative. I hadn't been asked to lead on a Friday night since late April, which didn't really mean anything; I spent May recovering from surgery, and over the summer there was just one service with more than enough rabbis to go around. I had nevertheless convinced myself I wouldn't be asked again. Never mind that I just led for the High Holy Days. A corner of my brain resembling chipped china held together by peeling beads of Super Glue, the irrational, insecure part, swears very loudly on some days that I have no right to be up there. My voice isn't good enough, or I'm singing too aggressively. No, I should be less aggressive. I could go on and on. People tell me I sound beautiful, that my praying moves them, and I don't believe a word they say while also wanting to hear it a million times more, because I know they're right. It's very confusing.
That praying and singing in front of my congregation is one of the best ways I've found to feel close to God, I have no doubt. But I never know when or if this gift will appear, and when it does I'm afraid I'll screw up and ruin my chances for the future. Shabbat is a taste of eternity, but it arrives without fail every week whether or not we fell short of the mark. Helping lead services is my occasional, random, and extraordinary lucky ascent to a place so much higher than real life, so much fun, that even as I'm there I become sad for when it must end and wonder if I will again be invited. I'm annoyed at myself for dwelling on potential loss rather than current abundance. I want to become better at living life now, the moment it's happening.
Tonight was the first time I helped lead in the "new" arrangement, sitting in a circle with a bunch of musicians (cello, guitar, flutes, percussion) rather than standing at a bima. I could actually see them, rather than hear disembodied notes coming from somewhere behind, and could also hear the congregation in the packed sanctuary singing back. I led with the same rabbi I was with all day on Yom Kippur, with whose high, strong voice it's so easy to blend and harmonize. I got lost in the sounds we were creating. It was a blast.