(Continued from here.)
I ditched work for the afternoon (way too easy to do when you're self-employed), sang it over and over and over again for the rest of the day, and then again at dawn the next morning. I sang it too many times. I knew I knew it, but didn't believe myself. I worked myself into a state of near-panic and barely made it to services because of, shall we say, physical issues. I was at once confident, angry at my irrationality, and sure that catastrophe would strike once I reached the bima. And equally sure I'd do a perfect job. Stage fright is no fun. I was so confused that I didn't know what I was thinking.
I did well. And when I sang, to my surprise, I understood once again that the breath within me was shared. My nerves fell away and I felt stronger than ever, certain that if I missed the mark, if I needed to be propped up or slapped into sensibility while chanting, or at any other time in life, I would always find an open door leading me back home. About to lose my balance at the edge of a cliff, I was in the world's safest place. I wanted to run away, yet never leave.
I don't understand why the act of memorizing a few pages of Hebrew can tie me into such metaphysical knots. For days afterwards I was completely spent, exhausted on all levels. Last Shabbat I chanted part of Parashat Shoftim, harder to learn than Va'ethanan, and barely broke a sweat. Maybe I needed to drive myself to the edges of intestinal fortitude in order to understand how much more pleasant it is to remain calm--or maybe, sometimes, I need to be a little nuts in order to understand what and why I am singing. Either way, I will keep hiking up that cliff.