Written for a 10-minute writing exercise in my writing class this evening:
I tried to learn the lines, singing them over and over again as usual. They were familiar, the sames ones I chanted three years ago: Parashat Shemot, a plague, a hardened heart, repeat, repeat. It should have been easy, but it wasn't. My own heart and voice were hard this time, too, closed, dark.
The next morning, I got an email from the cantor--how far have you learned, he asked? The bat mitvah tutor wants to read. Do you mind? I made a joke of it--well, if you insist--but was secretly relieved. I knew the words, but felt as if they were coming from the other side of a big, deep cliff whenever I sang.
I sent the email, and went out to a diner for breakfast. I sat down, and my cell phone rang. Hello? Silence. Hello? Are you sitting? asked my niece. Sure, I said, I'm about to bite into my omelet. I'm sorry, she answered. I'm sorry. He's gone, my father is gone.
I put down my fork, and looked at the sugar swirling in my coffee cup. I understood that I had been given a message earlier that week, some preparation. I wasn't supposed to be singing, only listening, to unexpected sounds I didn't understand. Maybe, after practicing them at some future time, not now, I might be able to chant and explain the story once more.