I'm taking a break from not writing about Israel to... not write about Israel but write nevertheless, and even on the topic of this blog. (It's been awhile!)
On Thursday a message with the subject "shaharit this shabbat" appeared in my inbox. I'm so used to seeing this kind of request in the bottom paragraph of an email about, say, my Torah reading assignment for June, 2009, and starting with the words "By the way...", that at first I couldn't imagine what the cantor wanted.
He was just wondering if I might be interested in leading services. Why, surely, I answered, with a couple of exclamation points.
he replied (a man of many exquisite notes, but few words).
I started sneezing an hour later, exactly what happened the last time I led, back in March. Although my mind has no problem leading two services in a row, or leading and then chanting four aliyot, as would be this case this week, my respiratory system seems to prefer just one type of singing per Shabbat. Thank you, we're done, time for lunch. So I broke out the Airborne, Cold-Eze, Zicam, NyQuil and gallons of orange juice to try and convince my nose that the concept was "mind over body," not the other way around.
At services on Friday evening I felt like someone had stepped on me. I ran home, slept for ten hours, and woke up almost human. Then I took a DayQuil, and it was like Moses parted the sea inside my sinuses: freedom.
My mind agreed. I don't think I'll ever understand why I, a person with stage fright, most comfortable in the back row of any public gathering, whose knees generally shake in the presence of Torah scrolls or rabbis, am so happy praying in front of a crowd. But I always feel like I've come home. It's never easy; there's way too much to think about (does that raised pinky finger mean I'm supposed to sing the next three lines? why can't I get the microphone out of the stand? what's this tune I've never heard before in my entire life?? etc.--the same words week after week, but never a dull moment). I'm in constant fear of making a mistake and being banished from the bima forever, which I know won't happen. Irrational thoughts do not diminish my joy one bit. I love that sensation of being safe yet exposed, naked yet sheltered; it's magnified when I'm on the receiving end of waves of everyone's energy and intention, but also very present when I'm part of the sea. Either way, I think I'm addicted to praying. I want to talk to God; God wants to keep me on my toes, for which I'm grateful. Life, any other way, would be really boring.