My chanting experience on Saturday, however, did offer some fun in addition to all the angst and sweaty palms. I returned to my seat and tried to regain my composure, and suddenly heard a little voice in my left ear:
"Can you come read at the children's service? Now?"
Crouched in the aisle was one of the family program administrators, who must have been waiting to race over as soon as I left the bima. The cantor usually chants for the kids, but sometimes he doesn't. I have no idea why. I had read at the children's service twice before, both times with a few days' notice, so this request took me by surprise.
Good, I said to myself--I'll have another chance to get it right.
So I ran out of the sanctuary with the administrator, and into a chapel filled with a few dozen dancing, singing, and randomly jumping around girls and boys under the age of six, and their parents. They were in the midst of parading the sefer Torah around the room, the cantor pounding away on a piano and the service leader, a rabbinic student, yelling above the happy confusion that in just a few minutes they'd hear all about Noah's Ark.
The cantor stopped playing and began to unroll the scroll. He turned to the kids, who seemed ready to explode with excitement.
"Have you ever seen a rainbow?" he asked, bellowing over the din.
"Yes!" said a voice from the crowd. "Last night!"
"You saw a rainbow at night?" said the cantor, laughing. "Really?"