The theater was large, but felt oddly intimate--maybe it was the long, low ceiling, the upholstery-muted hum of anticipatory conversation, the weariness that made us want to seek out one another for strength. Most of the seats were empty, as is usual at the start of Minha; no one wants to rush back after a full day of atonement. The rabbi with whom I led in the morning was here now, as well, praying alongside the day school principal, who had a big, sonorous voice that shook us all awake.
At first I found it difficult to concentrate in this unfamiliar space. I didn't know where to look, and felt like I was floating in a sea of disembodied voices. I tried closing my eyes, but was used to the intimate sense of presence that a crowded room will create; the distance between myself and the next person seemed even wider when I couldn't see. Then I looked around and observed that everyone else was also struggling to focus on the bima, expressions on their faces rapt and complicated with the emotion of the past year's joys and failures. We were all trying to fight our exhaustion and, in these last allotted moments of change, step over into the next place in our lives. The strange, half-empty theater suddenly felt like home, once I understood that we were all standing in exactly the same spot.