It's been a while since I was a loss for words about what it feels like to help lead services. The best description I can summon of my seventeenth time last Friday, aside from "fun," is "trust"--rarely have I felt so much coming straight at me, undiluted, from so many people. I used to go swimming in the ocean when I was a teenager. I'd venture out just a little further than my strength warranted, well beyond where my feet could touch sand and yet not at the line where waves broke hard and disappeared. I'd find a zone neither dangerous nor entirely safe, close to my friends swimming nearby and far as possible from the old folks on towels. I'd close my eyes and let the gentle, insistent current take me wherever it wished. Everyone once in awhile I'd judge my distance to the shore, and paddle back if I drifted too far. But I never returned to shallow water. I found comfort and safety in the rocking of the waves and their promise, still checked and measured at tide's edge, of unknown depth. I was wrapped in the ocean, afloat by grace of her power.
I almost lost myself while leading services last Friday, drifting further and further out into a perfect sea. The Torah is water, always changing, flowing, growing, and so is the music and prayer that leaves the bima. It sticks to people in the congregation like rain and then, like rapids, different and fuller, makes it way back up front. I'm sometimes afraid it will knock me under while I'm buoyant with trust and love. But it never does.