Tuesday, July 08, 2008

703. Funny

Remind me not to do that again. Only the display was damaged, not the CPU, which saved me a little money--but not much. I'll have the laptop back in about a week. Meanwhile, I'll make do with [*shudder*] writing on my work computer, and reading the actual paper paper. I've become frighteningly used to having a source of all knowledge with me wherever I go. Yes, I am obsessively attached to the hunk of silver that came to me late in its life, gently used, but still "nimble and quick." A week apart will probably do us both some good.

Meanwhile, this coming Shabbat I get to chant the funny part:

27 When the ass now saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam; and Balaam was furious and beat the ass with his stick.

28 Then the Lord opened the ass's mouth, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three times?" 29 Balaam said to the ass, "You have made a mockery of me! If I had a sword with me, I'd kill you." 30 The ass said to Balaam, "Look, I am the ass that you have been riding all along until this day! Have I been in the habit of doing thus to you?" And he answered, "No."

--Numbers 22

I've heard people chant this in all manner of silly voices. I won't--I'm afraid of making a fool of myself even under the most restrained of conditions--and I also always keep in mind the wonderful short story readings at Symphony Space, where the truest, most honest character renditions are in the voice of the actor, more or less (B.D. Wong, in particular; this isn't the story I heard him read, but he's so brilliant that I'd listen to him recite the phone book). I like the parasha's confident, cheeky, annoyed donkey, and the sheepish reply by Balaam. (In the triennial reading, his last word, "No," is unfortunately also the end of the aliya--so everyone will be singing along, and the drama of its brevity will be lost.) Balaam, fighting to curse but only able to bless, would have little energy left while waging his struggle. He says many other words later on, but I imagine them all in a whisper. I think the rebuke in verse 29 would be his one remaining loud, strong utterance.

I'm going to try to keep this in mind while chanting, but nerves may dampen the interpretation. Hopefully I'll be having enough fun to let myself be a (kosher) ham, for a change.


George said...

Everybody singing along with the last few words of the parsha is technically a problem. If you haven't heard the reading from the ba'al(at) koreh, you haven't fulfilled your obligation. I have been to a few synagogues where the ba'al koreh solved this problem by waiting and then finishing the reading "solo". The congregation soon got the point.

alto artist said...

Interesting--I never thought of that as a problem, but of course it makes sense. Our congregation had a similar issue with an "amen" at the end of a particular prayer where you're not supposed to have one--but for some reason it appeared there about 20 years ago, and never left. Finally the rabbis decided to set things straight, but habits are hard to break. It took quite some time, but eventually we got the idea when the hazzan began to hold the last word of the prayer for a very... long... time.


Regina said...

Was this the laptop you were waiting so expectantly for not too long ago? I think I remember reading about that...
Yes, I love Balaam's answer "No" at the end, too. I have felt that exact same way many times...

alto artist said...

Yes, this is the same laptop, *sigh*. I am (occasionally) an idiot.

And, me too (feeling like Balaam...)


Babz Rawls Ivy said...

You know however way you work out the funny part will be fine! Just the fact that you are being mindful of the reverence for this particular passage says a lot about your commitment to chanting this beautifully...YOU WILL!

I am always cheering you on!

Hey I just got back from camping with the children...Oye Vey!

It was indeed a good time had by all!

Next time air mattress!

alto artist said...

Oh, thank you! And I just read about your camping trip--what wonderful, happy photos of all of you! (Even without benefit of the air mattress! :) )