Right before we officially ushered in Shabbat with Lekha Dodi, we were asked to close our eyes and imagine a place of utter beauty. I thought of the Lake District, lights shining on a mirror of water within a blanket of silence sweet and smooth as the skin of my newborn cousin. The lake was like Shabbat, a moment of completion and balance that seemed too good to be part of the rest of the universe.
But as my eyes were closed, I realized that I could probably never find that place again, the actual physical location of the lake. We had been hiking, just meandering from town to town. For a moment, sitting at services, I became very sad; I wanted to breathe the clear air above the hills, feel its dirt beneath my toes, and could not. I began to doubt if it ever existed at all. I yearned for music to make me feel better, to distract me.
So I thought about services the next morning, when I would get to sing again. I remembered that music wouldn't exist without the silences that push it along, just as the words and letters in a Torah scroll rely upon the spaces between then to create meaning. Like an instant between the closing and opening of one's eyes, the silence at that moment was like my memory of the lake, poised on the edge of beauty and infinite promise. I might not be able to stand in on its actual shore, but the quiet around me that evening was a warm, compassionate melody, as real and strong as earth.