(Continued from here.)
Hagbah! What was I thinking? I completely forgot to mention the awesome moment, right before I walked up to the bima, when the Torah was lifted and, in one seamless, gymnastic motion, flipped from end to beginning so we could start the unbroken story once again from the same scroll.
Hagbah on Simhat Torah usually gives me chills. This year, not so much; my heart was already skipping beats in anticipation of the reading to come.
From behind the sefer Torah I see my friends and community crowding around the bima, craning their necks to get a glimpse of the words that look back up at me. Yesterday after Shemini Atzeret morning services, I had the rare opportunity to practice from this very same scroll. I speed-chanted self-consciously as everyone milled around and pretended not to listen, and the gabbai followed along from a pocket-sized humash with print so minuscule I wondered if he really did have it all memorized, and never needed to look. The rabbi came by for a minute and leaned over and whispered, "Beautiful!" Whew, sighed the irrational part of my brain; at least I know I learned the right section.
I stumbled over one trop in the paragraph about the sixth day, despite all those months of practice. I had worried, from the moment I began to learn, that I might start to cry at the line about the creation of man betzelem Elohim, in God's image. I think I was a little afraid to learn that part as a result.
Now I look down at the scroll and see the same odd crease on the right side of the parchment that I noticed yesterday. I place the tiny index finger of my yad above the first word, and take a deep breath.
(To be continued.)