This evening, in the middle of writing this post, I took a break in order to attend a shiva minyan. As meaningful as these are for me, I felt a little like a loser--shouldn't I be doing something more exciting on a Saturday night than visiting a house of mourning? But, as is usually the case, the universe knew where I was supposed to be. We met in a 40th floor apartment overlooking the entire west side of Manhattan, with a breathtaking view of miles of nighttime lights like strings of diamonds and rubies lining each side of the Hudson. The son of the deceased explained that sharing one or two great memories wouldn't do his father justice because his father's entire life was a blessing, a blanket of goodness, kindness and gentleness that enveloped everyone he met. Today at services, noted the rabbi, we announced the arrival of the month of Elul. Afterwards I found this site, which echoed the rest of his teaching:
...The entire month of Elul is dedicated to preparing for the New Year. It is said that the acrostic of the Hebrew letters, aleph, lamed, vav, lamed stands for the beautiful phrase from the Song of Songs, Ani l'dodi v'dodi li, I am to my beloved as my beloved is to me. The month of Elul is also a time for opening the heart to one's beloved. This includes healing relationships with oneself, with others, with the earth, and with God...
What better moment, said the rabbi, to celebrate a man who, through a life of patience and love, brought out the best in everyone he encountered.
This morning I chanted 29 verses, tying my own record for the most verses at once. It no longer seemed like a ridiculous amount, and I was nervous to a manageable degree. It occurred to me afterwards that my unfounded fears didn't escalate until last year, right after the High Holy Days and my moment of facing the congregation without a voice. Although everyone assured me I didn't screw up, the experience drained me of confidence. Now, as we approach another cycle of holidays, I feel like I've wrung every possible ounce of irrational reaction out of my psyche; enough already. Time to start anew, and remember that with an open heart, with love given and received, there's no reason to be afraid.