Sunday, September 14, 2008

722. A cliff, part 1

How do I work this thing?... Oh, right, just type. So here I am again, trying to steer myself to the proper course as we approach the end of Elul. I've missed writing, but have had little space for it in my brain. I've also been indulging my outer life more than my inner: finally snagged an iPhone and am playing with it constantly, bought a new couch, got rid of of the old one (a very New York story, post to come). Along with introspection, silly stuff is also necessary to maintain balance in life. But I am definitely still here.

At services two weeks ago, the rabbi reminded us that the letters in the name of this month, Elul, are also the first letters of "Ani dodi v'dodi li:" "I am my beloved, and my beloved is mine." He suggested we remember that we are our own beloveds--that in heshbon hanefesh, the inventory of our year, we pay attention to what we love in ourselves, and how we can nurture and grow these traits. And take note of the parts we don't love, so we can leave them behind.

Last month I confronted both poles, which I must admit is another reason (aside from crushing loads of deadline-oriented work) that I haven't written. I haven't wanted to put in the time to digest, articulate, and understand. I had signed up for a whopping bit of chanting, a column and a third. Most of this I read three years ago, so wasn't worried. I was kind of excited about doing it again, in fact, this time calmly and with more confidence.

On Friday afternoon I got an email from the cantor: Would you like to read the haftarah, as well? It was a cool one: "Nahamu, nahamu," the first haftarah of consolation before the High Holy Days. I was about to say yes, but was drowned out by a little voice from the logical side of my brain: it's a bit too much to cram. (The musical part comes quickly, but I still stumble over Hebrew.) I thanked him, and said I didn't think I'd have enough time. OK, he replied, I guess I'll keep trying to ask around. I could almost hear the big sigh between the lines of his email: Someone backed out at the last minute and I can't find anyone else. You've never learned anything this fast before, but I know you can do it. Pretty please.

I knew that chanting this particular haftarah would help heal me from the searing images of Tisha be-Av. I wanted to do it. I read it through a few times, decided to trust in the cantor's trust, which never let me down before, and said yes.

(Continued here.)


Regina said...

Ah, so good to "see" you, aa...
It's funny because just last week I wrote something for a study group I'm in and the one line that intrigued people the most was- "I am the most important part of the equation..."
I think we tend to forget that bit about loving ourselves... :)
Can' wait to hear about the new couch and chanting the haftarah, of course!
Missed you!

alto artist said...

It's really good to be here again--thank you, as always, for continuing to visit and read despite my many silences. I love your new blog! ( added now to my sidebar.


George said...

Good to see you back, I have missed you.
The Shabbat before last (Shof'tim), I was asked to read the haftarah with less than 20 minutes notice... I suppose that living in Israel helps with the Hebrew :-)

alto artist said...

Oh, thank you so much!

I am in awe of people who can do as you did, pick up a hafatarah or Torah portion and just wing it... Maybe one day after I study at an ulpan (who knows, stranger things have happened). We have 3 rabbis and a cantor who can chant everything in their sleep, but won't; only laypeople read. It's a wonderful community-building policy, but does sometimes cause members of the community to lose sleep.


George said...

I can't wing Torah chanting, I haven't done it since my barmitzvah. We had a most amazing teacher at Cheder, he used to correct us (both for correct Hebrew and correct trop) from memory.

alto artist said...

Wow. In the years when the congregation had just a few dozen members, one of our current rabbis used to be the only Torah reader. I believe he has the whole thing memorized, as well. Just amazing.