Thursday, September 25, 2008

Jazz Hands of Atonement

The other day I got an e-mail from the cantor at my synagogue. This doesn't happen every day, so I figure I'm either being asked to do something very special, or I'm in a world of trouble.

It turns out, she had good news for me. She asked me to take part in the Yom Kippur service. This is a very big deal, and quite an honor. It was also a little bit stupefying, as I'm still pretty remedial in the liturgical department. I only just got bat mitzvahed and went to my first High Holy Days service last year, and am still getting a grasp on all the basics, so being asked to sing part of the service during the holiest day of the year was a little daunting. Especially considering that for the High Holy Days, our temple borrows the massive Metropolitan Memorial Methodist Church, and packs it to the gills. Still, I was flattered.

At least I thought they wanted me to sing. I dusted off my old notes on chanting, and headed to practice feeling, I thought, well-prepared. There were about a half-dozen people sitting in a circle in the sanctuary, and the cantor started laying out the plans.

I've never attended a Yom Kippur service with my temple, but apparently each year features some creative component, usually involving some kind of performance by a local dance company. So far, so good. We are, it should be noted, a liberal reform congregation, so a bit of the artistic element wouldn't be terribly out of place. The choreographer was on hand to talk about what her company would be doing, which sounded lovely, and then she went on to say how we would help lead the congregation in an interpretive dance that we would be developing that night.


I wasn't going to be singing at all. Rather, they had asked the congregation to submit thoughts on forgiveness, and we were going to select the best ones, devise motions to symbolize them, and then lead everybody while we performed them repeatedly for this portion of the service.

Don't get me wrong. I don't have a problem with this in theory. It's just that it's not necessarily the kind of thing I would have readily volunteered to do. Let me put it this way: At the tender age of six, I didn't know much about myself as a person, but I knew enough that the dance classes that all the neighborhood girls took after school just weren't for me. When it was time for the bunk talent show in summer camp, which always involved some choreographed nonsense to something like Taylor Dayne or some crap like that, I was always the kid who was asking if I could hold a sign, or be a tree, or anything that didn't involve group dancing. I'd act, sing, do your PR, anything, as long as I didn't have to dance. It's not really my thing.

But when you're surrounded by your cantor and a some very earnest members of your congregation that are genuinely excited that a youngster like yourself would (seemingly) volunteer to help out...well...strike a pose, I guess.

It's not the end of the world. I've been meaning to get more involved in the 'gogue anyway, and it's a crazy supportive environment. I'll go take one for the mishpuchah. And since videotaping services is prohibited, it's not like any of you guys will see it.

No, I will not either.

Oh, for the love...fine. I hope you particularly like the part where it looks like I'm doing the Cabbage Patch. Apologies for the skewed view. I think it adds to the artistic integrity. Plus, I really don't feel like re-shooting it.