Sunday, June 04, 2006

332. Shavuot morning, 5766, part 2

The sanctuary felt full to me, even though there were only about thirty of us. My brain was as logy as when I had jet lag after arriving in Israel, and I was having trouble breathing in the hot, rainy air. But I could see the breastplate of our new Sefer Torah shining from behind the translucent parokhet, the Ark curtain, and anticipation poked me awake better than a shot of black coffee and cheesecake combined.

We happened to have an overabundance of rabbis (if such a thing is possible) in attendance that morning--three from my synagogue, three more visiting--who took turns, like a rotating heavenly host, leading parts of Shaharit. The bima, a small, wooden table draped with velvet cloth and adorned with a few of the roses from our study area downstairs, was pulled to the center of our ring of seats as we began the Torah service. At the fourth aliyah, the Aseret haDibrot, the Ten Commandments, we gathered as closely as we could and peered over each other's shoulders to watch the rabbi proclaim each word, the stem of a red rose leading his way instead of the yad.

Then it was my turn. I picked up the new yad, an elongated crystal of silver, and found my lines. The parchment was so white and smooth that I swore the ink was still wet and reflecting light. I imagined that my eyes, the first ever to follow this particular path of story, were leaving a sort of watermark as they traced each letter.

(To be continued.)

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