(Continued from here.)
Minha on Yom Kippur begins with the Torah service, immediately loud and triumphant as the scrolls are marched around the congregation. (There's a great deal of warm-up before reaching this point during other services. But it's assumed on Yom Kippur that you've been building to the moment all day long; a two-hour break pre-Minha is a modern innovation.) As soon as I began to sing, I felt my energy fizzle like air from a leaky balloon. The rabbi walked away from the bima for a few seconds to say something to the guitarist. I got paranoid; I was sure he was asking for louder music in the background to cover my weakness.
I watched the Torah wind in and out of the aisles below and tried to imagine a laser-like ray of energy reaching from it to me, like a horizontal Star Trek transporter. That thought, combined with the smiles I could see as tired, hungry people touched the edges of the scroll with their tallitot and prayer books, made me laugh. And laughing made me feel much better. I took a deep breath and saw myself as a big, flat tube of toothpaste being squeezed by an enormous Hand of God reaching down from the heavens, or at least the ceiling. I forgot that I was thirsty and trying to sing with parched lips and indigestion in front of a thousand people.
All I thought was: I want God to hear ME. And then: how selfish--I should be singing for everyone else. Anyway, God can hear me when I don't make a sound; God, for that matter, doesn't actually hear. The irrational metaphor worked nevertheless, and I got louder and stronger. It doesn't make sense, but there you have it.