(I wrote this on Saturday evening, but was distracted by the toothache mentioned below and never got around to posting. My last line wasn't quite accurate, either. See the following post, to come shortly, about the interesting aftermath of that toothache. Never a dull moment. [But don't worry, I'm OK!])
I was pretty confident, when I first volunteered, that I could learn 17 verses in three days. I like a challenge. But I didn't count on feeling lousy all week long, or having to stand at the bimah with a toothache. I still knew I'd get through the aliyot without major mistakes and that everything would be fine, relatively speaking. How relatively, I wasn't sure.
I'm very relieved. It went well and I was proud of myself, when all was said and done. I lost the trop at one point, a line with repetitive words set to different melodies; the rabbi sang quietly (although to a different version of the trop than mine, which got me a little confused), and I picked up the thread a moment later (although it felt like an eternity). Last year I might have panicked once I got that sinking feeling of words being in the wrong place, which did happen this morning for about a second. But I remembered the parts I call landmarks, distinctive words and trops to which I could latch on amidst chaos, and that the rabbi would rescue me no matter what. I was also determined to do a good job on behalf of my new yad. (We're still in the honeymoon period; maybe in a year or two I'll be comfortable if it sees me in my bathrobe, so to speak.)
I also realized how much I miss reading from our new Torah. I guess the gabbai is giving it a vacation or, more likely, it's too heavy for tiny Bat Mitzvahs to carry around the Sanctuary. This morning we used one that I'm sure encouraged many generations of congregants over the age of 40 to make appointments with their optometrists. Extra-small scrolls mean that I need to drag the yad extra-slowly, and not blink or I might miss a letter. On the bright side, its sofer eschewed curlicues and crowns and words were clear, evenly spaced, and rather casual and friendly. But very tiny. Between praying that my short-term tonal memory was up to snuff, deciphering the letters, and trying to ignore the pain in my face, I was concentrating so hard that a brass band could have dropped from the heavens into the middle of the first row and I wouldn't have noticed.
A few weeks ago for Parashat Vayikra, the rabbi shared a teaching from Tiferet Shmu'el:
"If a single person sins (Lev. 4:27)"... Everything that is cut off from its root receives impurity. When it is connected to its root, it doesn't receive impurity... This is also true with respect to people. If they are connected to one another, impurity will not rule them...
Perhaps that's the meaning of Parashat Metzora, as well. If you define being ruled by impurity as being being overwhelmed by bad situations, illness, evil--succumbing to problems against which you lack the strength to prevail--then the support of community can surely go far to "avert the severe decree." I think my reading this morning was proof that standing in the middle of a room filled with good people can sometimes be better than any antibiotic.