At services yesterday we had a wonderful speaker who shared thoughts about the Golden Calf episode in Parashat Ki Tissa. What's the most common idol today? he asked. Money, of course, we replied. No, he countered, it's ourselves; we think we're God, rather than agents of God on earth. We forget that every single one of us is created in God's image, so there is something to be learned even from those who are evil. And for this reason we often forget about humility--that our individual levels of power or influence are no greater or less than anyone else's, no matter what our position in society.
I chanted Torah again yesterday, and listened to these words as I geared up to go to the bima and remain calm. I began to think about the time I read at the Kotel, and the feeling that God was guiding the yad from word to word. My hand moved by itself, but it was only an illusion of control. How special I felt to be chosen to chant at that moment--but my ability to do so was completely dependent upon everyone else combining their individual pieces of God into one big, focusing mirror that reflected strength directly into my soul. We were all equal players in the moment. And here were are again, I thought, a different place and time but the same cast of characters. They carried me then and would now, too, so I had no reason to be nervous.
(My reasoning wasn't entirely successful; my hands still shook when I got to the bima. But my knees were steadier than ever.)