Sunday, May 24, 2009

Keeping Torah Close

היום חמשה וארבעים יומים שהם ששה שבועות ושלשה יומים לעמר
Today is the forty-fifth
day of the omer - six weeks and three days
תפרת שבמלכת

A day of compassion in a week of majesty

I am someone who loves to leyn--chant Torah, as well as other books of the Tanach. The patterns of the notes matched with the patterns of the language resonate within me and flow outward, allowing those around me to fulfill the mitzvah of hearing these ancient words.

Being able to leyn is skill that is in demand by Jewish communities--both large and small. I've chanted at Beth Sholom in a sanctuary filled with more than 600 people and I've chanted in a classroom with a small minyan of 15. Yesterday I had the honor of chanting outside in a garden bursting with blooms. When I was done, I returned to my place within group accompanied by the handshaking of appreciation from those gathered to hear the words of Torah. One man complimented me on my reading and then asked, "Are you a hazzan or a rabbi?" I smiled and shook my head no. He paused for a moment, and then said, "you're someone who is close to Torah." My smile grew larger, and I nodded, "Yes."

You don't have to be a cantor or a rabbi to be close to Torah. The messages contained within can be accessed through language or song; academically through study or viscerally through the senses. This ability for everyone to connect to the ancient teachings is something that has kept Judaism alive and vibrant through the centuries. We need to keep these connections going to insure our traditions continue--as we honor the old through the eyes of the new.

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