I sometimes have a bad habit of confusing being human--and therefore being, by nature, not perfect--with being a failure. The experience of leading services, I'm beginning to realize, has forced me to be so honest with myself that much of what's usually behind all kinds of armor is now bubbling to the surface. In no other area of my life am I such a stew of insecurity, and I'm starting to sound a little dull and curmudgeonly as a result.
So I spent some time over the past few days reminding myself what was so much fun about last Friday. We sing Psalm 96--Shiru Ladonai, "Sing to God, all the earth, a new song!"--early in the Kabbalat Shabbat service, racing into its opening lines like we're riding down a big hill in the wind, unable to stop and loving the tenuous, exhilarating bit of control that keeps us from crashing. Psalm 96 always seems like a pivot point, the moment when the rest of the week begins to recede and the joy of Shabbat becomes inevitable.
The rabbi and I began the psalm together. I tried to figure out what he wanted to do; the custom at my synagogue is for service leaders to alternate verses while the rest of the congregation sings along. Usually one person will pull back from the microphone to make it clear that the other is to take the lead, and so I got a little louder when he stopped singing at the second verse. At verse three I moved away from the mic, but he didn't jump in. So, in the one second during which this judgment call had to be made, I guessed that he wanted me to keep on singing. He began to drum, looking right at the other drummer to my left so they could synch and intertwine rhythms. The tempi got faster, the instruments louder.
(To be continued.)