(Continued from here.)
But I felt more grateful than guilty, and hoped the unwitting accomplices to my enlightenment at the bima knew how much I appreciated their help. In fact, at those moments of scroll-holding my love for the scroll-holders could not have been greater than if they had snatched me off the tracks in front of an oncoming train. I had to restrain myself from running after them with tears of giddy thanks.
Adrenaline will do that to you; I'm a little calmer these days. But my responses were genuine, if operatic, and convinced me that just as a word can hurt, can kill, a simple gesture can save. In both cases the act, even if casual or automatic, speaks volumes about the true essence of its agent. I've had attacks of sudden onset gratitude before, both times having to do with singing (perhaps music makes me more vulnerable). The first was at an a cappella workshop years ago, when I was placed in a group far too advanced because I wanted to be with my musician boyfriend. One afternoon I found myself on stage, clueless, trying to sight-sing an obscure Renaissance mass and feeling like a kid racing in mad pursuit of a balloon with a broken string. The notes on the page looked like poppy seeds and made no sense. I was miserable, but didn't panic--nothing was at stake except my own self-worth, which was drifting away as fast as the balloon.
Suddenly the vocal coach was behind me, singing in my ear. He was just doing his job, saw I was lost and came over to help. But he stood there for about a minute to make sure I could sing it on my own, and I did. He could have left after I found my place, but was a teacher and wanted to make sure I learned, which is one of the best kindnesses possible in this world.
The other instance was this past Rosh Hashanah, second day. This time I knew the music as well as the vibrations of my own bones. Again I felt like a balloon, but was delighted by the flight and had to keep reminding myself to touch ground. I think the rabbi standing next to me could tell that once or twice during the tefilah, just for a second, I forgot where I was, that I was standing in front of a thousand people and not alone in the clouds or Gan Eden. Completely, joyously present but also reaching for the edge of somewhere new, I had to concentrate doubly hard to keep track of my place in the mahzor. At the Barhu, the call to prayer, I took the microphone out of its holder so I could face the Ark. I turned back as the music began, but even before I could reach over to re-seat the mic, the rabbi grasped my hand lightly and guided it to the stand. His gesture was probably instinctive, after years of watching hazzanim fumble at this very moment. But that one second reminded me of all the goodness and love in the room, and made me feel safe enough to continue into unknown territory.
I feel the same whenever people next to me at the bima hold open the scroll as I chant, with the yad in both my hands like a golf club. They can't know how much their small act speaks of the sweetness of my community, and gives me strength to reach higher and deeper in prayer, and all else, than I ever thought possible.