Imagine a sapphire, bluer than the sea and clear as a loving gaze, mixed with milk, simple and opaque, mirror-smooth, and the color that might result. This was the sky on Shavuot morning as we stumbled upstairs after a night of learning. Sleeping cars parked on Broadway looked more deeply rooted than the skinny Manhattan sidewalk trees between them. I didn't want to go back inside; I wasn't sure my brain would function well enough to chant four aliyot. And I also wanted to watch the sun continue to seep into a flat and flowing sky.
But eventually we had to start the morning service. I made it through the reading just fine although shaking a bit, partly in anticipation of the text, and also because I forgot to take a nap the afternoon before and was dizzy with exhaustion. I did stumble once, on a passage I knew perfectly:
Vayomer Moshe el-ha'am al-tira'u ki leva'avur nasot etchem ba ha'Elohim uva'avur tiheyeh yir'ato al-pneychem levilti techeta'u.
"'Do not be afraid,' replied Moses to the people. 'God only came to raise you up. His fear will then be on your faces, and you will not sin.'"
—Exodus 20:17 (or 20:16, in some tikkunim)
Where I got confused: "al-tira'u," "do not be afraid." I made the same mistake last year, as well, and I think on at least one other occasion. The trope is similar, but not identical, to the melody a few lines later. I knew it might trip me up; I practiced it over and over beforehand, but it got the best of me once again. So I listed to the gabbai's correction, took a deep breath and went back a few words, and did it right. We can't help being afraid, but will always be OK once we remember that we're never alone.