For the last three weeks I haven't been able to concentrate. I thought I was, felt the same as always, but words kept on flying into one side of my head and out the other. On the Friday of Shabbat Bo, the rabbi gave a brilliant d'var Torah. I listened and was transformed, and sat down the following day to write about it. And couldn't remember a single word, still can't. At least I knew that for a few minutes I was somewhere far from sadness, although it wasn't yet time for me to remain in that place.
Now I'm closer, and feel a little guilty about it. How convenient that the shloshim is ending at almost the same time as my grief, or at least the first, most immediate part of it. Grieving according to a schedule seems to have happened despite my best attempts to wait for feelings to adjust themselves as needed. I'm reading Torah and haftarah in a few weeks, an assignment offered gently, in case I wasn't ready. But I said yes the second I got the email, my new hunger for sound as great as the desire I had, while learning my previous portion a few weeks ago, to keep silent. I got up early on Shabbat Shirah to practice before services, and sang again for an hour this morning. I feel like I've stumbled upon a fountain in the desert and don't want to stop drinking--am afraid to stop, in case the arid land suddenly reappears.
This past Friday evening the rabbi spoke about song as a vehicle for prayer to rise up and reach the place we need. He also noted Aviva Zornberg's thoughts on the Song of the Sea, which began while the Israelites were still within those walls of water--not after they reached the other side, but even as they wondered if God would really come though and they would survive. Singing, we learn, is not only for times of joy, but also to accompany longing, pain, fear. But I think there are times when prayer is supposed to reach its destination on the force of word and heart alone. I thought about saying Mourner's Kaddish that evening at the shiva minyan, surprised to hear the sound of my own voice as I recited instead of sang. I don't think my rabbis and friends had ever listened to me speak a prayer without music. To myself, without melody as a cloak, I sounded empty, tentative. That bare echo alone, music I could make only with a raw soul, didn't need any any additional fuel to find its destination.