It Had Come

Painting by James R. Russell

I had been thinking about it for months.  When would this day come?  Who was I going to be when it actually happened?  And how would I do?  But TODAY?!  Completely disheveled from a week’s worth of classes and bogged by a splitting headache –  I couldn’t pass up the opportunity that had fallen before me!

I had no idea that when I walked into the Beit Kinesset for afternoon mincha (prayers) that I would even be a candidate for leading services.  I mean, sure I’ve lead tiffilah before…but never in front of a room of Rabbis and the entire student body.  But, when five minutes past three came along, and no one had claimed leadership, one of our beloved head rabbis turned to me and asked, “Would you please lead us?”

It was a pure deer in the headlights moment. Could I really do this?  Did I know all the words that one needed to say?  I mean…rabbinical school davening is way more complex than I’ve been exposed too….

Still partly frozen – but filled with delight that the moment had finally arrived, I turned to him and said “You bet I can!”     Unclear as to where exactly the tallis cabinet was, it took me a few minutes to get myself situated (very long minutes).  Finally, after thoroughly checking every cabinet around, I was ready. Tallis on?  Check.  On the right page?  Check. Nothing awkward on my backside?  Double check.  Catch my breath?   Yah, no time for that – get on with it girl!

Then, enter the haze.  All of a sudden melodies and words were coming out of my mouth – all I could do was listen, and drip sweat on the holy text below me.  Was this the right melody?   Wow…I came in early, did everyone finish the page? Hatzi Kaddish – I’m hearing myself daven and I don’t even have time to THINK whether or not it’s right – it’s just coming out.  Done – next page – Amida – wow, now it’s just happenin’ –  all I could do was sing the familiar words my heart and soul.

The world had turned.  I had entered into a space where it was like time didn’t exist – and as the congregation joined in for the Kedusha – it was time for silence – prayer and personal reflection.

After a period of time, I turned around to actually see all the people in the room.  Who was standing, who was finished….I took a nice breath and brought us back together with a good old rendition of Oseh Shalom.   That always fills the soul.  Services were complete and victory had reigned.  I had officially lead services in rabbinical school – and my fellow colleagues cheered in support….

So?  How did I do?

Well, I learned that the Amida has in fact two ways of being sung – weekday and Shabbat!  Can you guess how I learned this lesson?  Well…it all started when I began to sing the Amida….

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