(Continued from here.)
The Simhat Torah morning service is my favorite of the year. Everyone is exhausted from last night's party, and it doesn't seem possible that we can be any happier today--but we are. The Sanctuary has been cleared of chairs, so we each grab our own from stacks lining the walls and create wavy, drunken-looking rows close to the Ark, as if we can't bear to be too far away from the scrolls after so many hours holding them close. We pray quietly and I feel joy start to fill the room like wine poured slowly into a goblet. The words we whisper and patterns of sunlight on the carpet are no different than any other early morning, but I can hear in the spaces between verses, see in our smiles hello and quick turning of pages the anticipation of flying around the room once again, hands clasped tighter than ever as we wait for the moment of beginning, of hearing new songs in old words.
This year I get to chant those words. Usually I show up in sneakers and a T-shirt appropriate to the dishevelment of dancing every single hakafah (circuit around the room), but today I wear a fancy skirt in honor of reading the beginning of Bereshit, and my feet hurt in new shoes. I don't mind. I dance like a child pushed on a swing: more! faster! higher! taking breaks to greet friends and run out to the street corner, the only quiet place on the entire block, in order to practice my portion for the ten thousandth time. I want the melody to become automatic, part of my breath, so I can see those birds and beasts and creeping things clearly in my mind's eye as I sing.