I gave blood last Thursday at a blood drive at my synagogue, the second time since very, very long ago when I was a freshman in college and experienced lovely hallucinations, as my life essence dripped into a plastic bag, that I was being buried by falling books. (The doctor said I was fine, that my body just didn't feel like giving up a pint of blood. The Red Cross ladies told me in no uncertain terms never to come back.) I tried again last year with complete success. As if God wanted to underscore the gravity of the situation, I found myself on a gurney directly in front of the Aron, the Ark that holds the Torah scrolls, which in our Sanctuary is as jeweled, ornate, and generally overwhelming as such a structure can be. Since I wanted at all costs to avoid re-enacting my teenage experience, I spent a very long time lying flat on my back with my legs raised, looking up at shiny bits of gold paint leading to an endless dark blue ceiling. I felt like an altar sacrifice, and half expected a bull of pleasant odor to fall from the sky. It was really cool.
This year's experience wasn't nearly as dramatic, although I did almost faint as soon as I stood up and took a bite of cookie. The blood technician, or whatever they're called, explained that our bodies do this because they don't know that we've willingly given up so much blood; rather, they assume it was taken under protest, and we're in danger. So our brains try to shut us down as a means of preservation. I am very impressed that God has given our brains the foresight to react in this way, and that they can tell the difference between possible physical danger and baseless terror (i.e., stage fright). Even though I've occasionally wished I would pass out as soon as I began to chant Torah (not often or even recently, thank goodness), the part of my brain in charge of this knows better, and has more faith in my abilities than do other parts.