#BlogElul 13 and 14 – Remember and Learn

BlogElul graphic So, it happened. Friday was a crazy day, we spent three hours at IKEA (but we found what we wanted, mostly), I had to cook and I was tired and the blog didn’t get written before Shabbat came in. In a way, it’s a relief. Now that the shiny new car is dinged, I don’t have to uphold perfection anymore.

I also think it’s very apropos for me to combine Remember and Learn into one blog post. Remembering, after all, is integral to learning, and nowhere is this more obvious than in Torah reading, which I do for my congregation every Shabbat, every holiday and some weekdays.

In this busy time before the High Holy Days, I certainly have much learning to do. This will be my second year of reading Torah before almost 1000 people, and my first year of doing all of it – last year’s first day of Rosh HaShanah was the swan song of our beloved, retired Torah reader. I had already taken over most of his duties by then (he’s in his nineties), but that moment was all his. Now it is mine.

Reading Torah is always a memory feat at the best of times. The words are there on the parchment, but there are no vowels, no punctuation, and no musical notation. All of that has to be inside the Torah reader’s head. (I will admit to using a photocopied cheat sheet – but I challenge YOU to learn a new portion EVERY WEEK without any kind of prop …).

The High Holy Day Torah readings offer a new level of difficulty, because they use a different cantillation, or trope. So I not only have to learn the words and the punctuation (which are not that hard for me, because I’m a native Hebrew speaker), but I have to learn them with a different tune from the one I use the other 51 weeks of the year. Yes, it’s very confusing, thank you for asking.

I’m very grateful and proud that my congregation has chosen to put this level of trust in me, that I will learn and remember and read the Torah for them during the most important holidays of the Jewish year. For many people sitting in that sanctuary, this will be the only time they ever hear the words of the Torah, because hockey and gymnastics and getting in those few extra hours of work on a Saturday morning are more important to them, 51 weeks of the year.

I do not presume to judge those who make these choices. Everyone has their own life to live and their own choices to make. Mine are not necessarily better than theirs. But I am very glad that they will be there on the High Holy Days, and I take my responsibility to them very seriously.

So I will Learn and I will Remember, and I will do my best to enchant them with the words of the Torah. Maybe they will want to come and hear them again.

How about you, what will you learn and remember this holiday season?

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