(Continued from here.)
We reach the end of Mizmor LeDavid and the rabbi slows down; I follow suit. But the musicians don't agree; their pace remains steady and they get a little louder, a bit more forceful. Each note sounds more purposeful then the one before. I think I know what they're about to do: create a deliberate, measured pace, and then speed up again. I wait--just a few seconds, but the tension is unbearable--and am ready to move faster at a second's notice and spin into the frenzy for which they're surely preparing. I feel giddy and complicit in this shaping of communal mood, certain that no one but those of us up front can guess the thrilling secret about to be released. And impatient--start now, you back there with the drum! I implore telepathically. Don't torture them! Don't make them wait any longer!
Then I notice the rabbi's hand motioning below the bima so only myself and the musicians can see: lower, lower. He knows what's happening, of course, probably sensed it even before any of us had a clue. It's not time yet; just a few more minutes and everyone will be done climbing and be ready to jump. For an instant I feel like I've been slapped in the face, and stop singing. The musicians slow down immediately and guiltily, I imagine. How could we have misjudged, and why can't I go there now? But then I see everyone looking up and waiting to hear what the rabbi has to say, and my self-recrimination disappears as quickly as it arrived. Faces and shoulders relax as calm and anticipation wash over us like cool rain. He was right--just a few more minutes.
After services, there's a community dinner and guest speaker. I've missed the first half, the eating part, since the dinner began after the early service. I've asked a friend to save me some food and there it is, heaped on a plate. I arrive just as everyone is singing zemirot, and devour potato kugel while surrounded on all sides by voices and music. I suddenly remember a time, years before, when I fell asleep on a sofa during a break in the middle of the day at an a cappella workshop, and opened my eyes to see a group of faces right above me singing Monteverdi's madrigal "Zefiro torna" ("Return, O Zephyr, and with gentle motion/Make pleasant the air and scatter the grasses in waves"). They were the zephyrs come to life, and tonight all my friends at the dinner are the Shekhina, the Shabbat bride, preparing my table and teaching me to rest.
(To be continued.)