Monday, January 08, 2007

437. Critical mass

Yes, I'm still chanting, even though I haven't pontificated about it for awhile. In two weeks I'll read three aliyot from Parashat Vaera, all about plagues 3-5 and the repeated hardening of Pharaoh's heart. I seem to have surpassed a longstanding plateau and can now learn much faster than before: 20 verses in two weeks, although I could have spread it out over four. It's as if the Hebrew-memorizing part of my brain finally filled to critical mass, and is now starting to spill over into the singing and understanding parts. It feels good. I also plan to experiment in the third of those aliyot, just for the fun of it, with a slight variation in trop (for the munah-katon) to the current style of my Torah chanting teacher. She's employed many different melodies over the years, and keeps reminding me that trop shouldn't be static--change is good. I think I like the original way better, but will only be able to tell once I hear myself. (Assuming I'm calm enough to remember to listen.)

I'll also chant at morning minyan the week before, on the same day as my most recent student. I'd love more just like her; I've taught three people so far, all adults who were told as kids that they couldn't sing and who are now very proud to have exceeded their own expectations. Our dual presence wasn't planned in advance, and I kind of wish I weren't reading; I don't want to steal her spotlight. But it'll be great to cheer her on, join everyone in the Sheheheyanu, and vicariously re-live my first tentative steps up to the bimah five years ago. And see in her eyes the excitement of remembering that possibilities are endless, and boundaries non-existent, once you believe in yourself.

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