And now for something completely different, since a good night's sleep puts the holiday in a new, cheerier light. Before I begin the day's 47 million tasks, including two day's worth of work, a rehearsal, recording a student's Torah portion, learning one of my own, laundry, and shopping and cooking, I offer the following:
Caloric overload is not the only physical danger of this holiday. During services this past Shabbat, I thought of a few others:
8. Tallit-fringe strangling. With great humility, I must take credit for saving someone's life last week (or, at least, the integrity of the fabric of her blouse) after she kissed the end of the traveling Torah scroll with the edge of her tallit as it made its way around the Sanctuary--and her fringes got caught on the breastplate. The procession kept moving as my pew-mate scrambled to avoid being dragged down the aisle with the entire bar mitzvah family. I quickly reached over to achieve detanglement. "I guess I was trying to become attached to the Torah," she observed afterwards.
7. Accidental extinguishing of the ner tamid, the perpetual light. It happened a few years ago on Yom Kippur, and we seem to have escaped any immediate, dire repercussions--but in the bigger picture, who really knows.
6. Hagbah (the lifting of the Torah scroll during services) catastrophe. Traditionally, or maybe it's custom or heresay, I'm not sure, all present are supposed to fast for 40 days if a scroll is dropped. This is even worse if the dropping happens on Yom Kippur, when we're already very hungry. A few years ago, during the High Holy Days I Would Like to Blot Out Because I Had Laryngitis, the cantor--who also had laryngitis--was standing on the side with his baby daughter sound asleep on his shoulder just as the the Torah lifter began to sway precariously. The cantor literally leaped up to the bimah and caught both man and scroll in one balletic fell swoop, the baby never blinking an eye. An awe-inspiring moment that aged me about ten years.
5. Tripping on the bimah on the way up to an aliyah. Not funny. On the first day of Rosh Hashanah a few years ago, an elderly man fell and lost consciousness as he tried to climb the two small steps. (Now there are big strips of white tape outlining those steps.)
4. Death during prayer. Much worse than tripping, also not funny. This happened at a synagogue I attended ages ago, causing its moribund status to ascend to the next level.
3. "Please rise vertigo" from all that standing and sitting. Who needs the gym?
2. My synagogue has a balcony. The balcony has a railing. People in the first row of the balcony rest their prayer books on the railing. People in the first row also occasionally stretch, get up to put their coats on, etc. In tenth grade I think I learned the mathematical formula for determining the velocity of a falling object. By the time the book reaches the ground, or someone's head, it will probably have the force of a large locomotive. Please save the life of a ground-floor congregant this year and stash your mahzor on the seat. Thank you.
1. Laryngitis. Let's not go there again. But it will forever remain, for me, as the deadliest of High Holy Day hazards.
Wishing everyone a panic-free day of holiday preparations.