Sunday, August 03, 2008

714. Subway

(I write this from just outside of Boston, where I'm sitting on a dear friend's porch enjoying the fact that I forgot to bring my phone charger and the wireless connection is intermittent. It was a long, long week and this is a short vacation, but a really wonderful one so far.)

Last Saturday morning I awoke in a panic, heart pounding, hands sweaty and cold. I don't remember all the details of the nightmare, but it involved standing at the bimah and chanting Torah--specifically, the Torah portion I was about to read in a few hours, which had been echoing in my brain all night long like wisps of white hair drifting off a dandelion. I went to sleep confident that I knew it well, numbers and all. Many, many numbers, repeated with different vowels. We were tight, the numbers and I.

But my subconscious disagreed, so I decided to heed its advice. For an hour I sang the aliyah over and over again from various tikkunim and in many configurations (sitting, standing, words on the page too small, words big and accusing, page half-folded and illegible, etc., just in case it started to rain in the middle of the Sanctuary while I was singing and the ink smudged). Then I remembered that I had to shower and get to services. I was running late by the time I left my house, so decided to take the subway.

The gasoline shortage has kept many New Yorkers in town for the summer, and I think most of those people decided to take my train last Saturday morning at 9:25. As I stood in a sandwich between a large, sweaty man and skinny woman with a pointy pocketbook, I reminded myself that it was also crowded at Sinai, what with 600,000 people (not to mention all those past and future souls) huddling together. So this could be construed as a fitting position for a holy day.

The subway went one station and then stopped, out of service. OK, I'm not all that dense, I get it now, God doesn't like my non-Shabbat-approved activity.

I took a cab instead. By this time I had forgotten my nerves, which perhaps was the Divine plan all along. I read flawlessly, taking to heart a reminder offered before I walked up to the bimah: you're among friends.

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