My brain demanded a holiday break this past week. I tried to tie up year-end loose ends, but mostly vegetated on the couch in an attempt to recharge the many batteries of the creative parts of my life. I also debated joining this--Blog365, NaBloMo on steroids, one blog post a day for an entire year. If I do, some of those will be photos or quotes from those far more articulate than I, because I'll never have time or energy for so many words. But maybe those parenthetical ideas will inspire something else... I've tried to limit the subject matter of this blog to Judaism and chanting, with occasional forays into family and life in New York, but perhaps it's time to widen the net. Or not. As of January 29 I will have been here for three years!--who could have imagined.
On Friday evening I co-led the Contemplative Shabbat service at my synagogue, which injected more energy into my lazy spirit than hours upon hours of L&O:CI (my latest guilty pleasure) ever could. One day only laypeople will lead this service, but not quite yet; I'm grateful to have shared the honor with a rabbi, which left me calm enough to meditate a bit myself. We chose "light" as our theme for these dark, waning days of the year, and spoke about references from the liturgy. I chose the first and last lines of Psalm 97:
God reigns; let the earth rejoice ...
Clouds and darkness surround You
Righteousness and justice are the foundations of Your throne
Light is sown for the righteous ...
Rejoice in God, and give thanks to God's holy name.
I found a commentary in the Metsuda Siddur suggesting that the role of clouds here was to obscure evil and wickedness and allow the light of God's goodness to shine through. So darkness is necessary to help reveal light--which is always waiting for us, as the last lines say, even when it seems the clouds will never part. The days will always get longer and brighter. I also spoke about the first blessing before the Shema:
You roll away the light from before the darkness and the darkness from before the light ...
Blessed are You, God, who brings on the evenings.
Although about creation, this is a specific blessing for evening--a time when light disappears and everything is fuzzy and unclear. Evening is when the Jewish day traditionally begins, when we start our daily lives anew; maybe the message is that we shouldn't be "blinded by the light." Perhaps we're better off looking for truth and honesty when it's a little hidden and we must search harder for the true sparks in the darkness.
Although I was thrilled to speak and sing in front of everyone, the best part of the service was the Amidah. Two dozen of us spread throughout the dark, cavernous, completely silent stone sanctuary, alone yet also accompanied. I stood near an alcove by the door, and halfway through heard a little squeak--and then another, and another. It was a bird who had taken residence under the archway long before I arrived, and I think she was praying along.
p.s.: Yikes, I did it.