(Continued from here.)
And then the music slows, and we gather at the center of the Sanctuary once again. The gabbai, who has this part of the ritual down to a science, having stage-managed the past few dozen Simhat Torahs, signals my designated "huppah captain" to gather up the other huppah-bearers. Created by the whole congregation last year in honor of our new Torah, it's really, really, big. My friends are not; the gabbai gets a little frantic as he watches them struggle to hold the poles aloft. I'm reminded of my friend D'.s wedding, where actual tiny pieces of furniture hung from a lovingly handmade, unbearably heavy huppah, one corner of which was my responsibility. My arms began to hurt a few minutes into the service, and then my whole body. As I grew numb from the shoulders down, the rabbi gave me a scary look that said: hold on, you weak and horrible person. You drop the pole, you ruin your friends' lives forever. I continued to hold the pole, trying to avoid writhing visibly in agony.
I'm glad I have no idea, at this moment, that my friends are feeling equivalent pain. All I can hear is my rabbi calling me to the bima:
"Requesting permission from God exalted beyond all song and adoration, awesome beyond all praise and acclamation, the essence of wisdom and power, eternal Ruler, master of creation. And requesting permission of the Torah, whose royal splendor is enhanced with inner beauty...[more purple prose, etc. etc.]...The choice has been made, with all in unity; one we have chosen from this community, one who is true-hearted, deep in pursuit of kindness and justice, in paths of truth succeeding, one inspired to be first at the renewal of the Torah's reading. Since yours is the privilege to begin our fulfillment of this reading, setting a fine example, your portion is so goodly and your reward will be so ample."
Arise, arise, arise, [insert name], Kallat Bereshit Bera, to greet the great and awesome God with adoration, with the permission of this holy congregation, which will respond to your blessing with Amen in acclamation."
(From Siddur Sim Shalom)
I'm glad the words are in Hebrew, or else I would burst into tears as I did when I read them in the siddur the night before. My pulse pounds in my ears; my palms are ice cold; the only example I want to set is to remain conscious while reading. The rabbi sings out my name, and I walk up to the Torah scroll.