We walked out to the bima and began the service. Between my lingering cold and lack of sleep the night before, thanks to the traditional Muslim fig cake I stayed awake to bake for an interfaith break-fast*, I was exhausted. But I could sing, more or less, and the emotion of the day was much better than water for my parched throat. As the morning continued and I grew tired and hungry, the distance from me to God seemed to diminish. Our conversation began to get personal, even in front of a thousand people. At the U'vechen, the rabbi and I--although we had planned to alternate verses--sang in unison, just like the two male rabbis and cantor a few years earlier. I was able to match her note for note; we sounded like one person, and I could feel the power of many more going through my bones.
A few years ago at a singing workshop, a vocal coach addressed me during a master class. You sound really nice, she said, but something is missing and I don't know how to help you find it. She pointed to her heart. I was upset and confused by her criticism; how was I supposed to become a better singer if she couldn't tell me what was wrong? The whole process seemed a little less fun after that. Questions about the lost, unknown thing were always in the back of my mind.
I thought of the teacher's comment when I went back to sit with the congregation after Shaharit ended. I realized that I had found it, the elusive heart of my voice, the very first time I chanted Torah. It was still fun to sing the music I always loved, the Renaissance motets and weird avant garde French choral pieces, but they now seemed without texture, two-dimensional, a copy of the real thing. This morning that extra force was so strong it seemed to leap out of my chest and alight behind the bima just like another person.
*My first attempt to bake since the age of 12. It went fine, but the cake was misplaced at the event and is currently in a friend's freezer. So I escaped the risk of my poor domestic skills posing a threat to local interfaith relations.