Friday, April 23, 2010

Leyn Time

היום ארבעה ועשרים יום שהם שלשה שבועות ושלשה ימים בעמר
Today is the twenty-fourth day, making three weeks and three days of the omer
תפארת שבנצח
A day of compassion in a week of perseverance

I've spent some time today practicing my Torah reading for tomorrow. I was asked to chant an aliyah by the Mirvish family, who will be celebrating the marriage of their son, Ezra. Not only is it an honor to be asked, but I know there will be many in the sanctuary who appreciate a good leyn.

There are many reasons why I love to leyn, why this ancient ritual calls to me. It connects me to the time when oral transmission was the only way our people could access this sacred text. The cantillation not only serves to draw people into the text but can add meaning and nuance to what is heard. I am part of the thread that goes from the Torah through me and weaves outward into the sanctuary, weaving us all together.

There are parts of the Torah I have chanted so many times, I know them by heart. There are times I feel like one of the characters at the end of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, those who memorize the books so that they will survive even though all the paper versions have been destroyed. I imagine there are enough of us in the world who could get together and recite the entire Torah.

Leyning is also a form of meditation. I need to be present, to be only in the present moment, looking at the parchment, seeing the black or brown letters--the white or cream space in between. If my mind wanders, I lose the thread, the cadence. When my mind drifts to other thoughts in meditation, I can always bring myself back to the breath; when I lose my concentration while leyning, I can always bring myself back to the chant.

I could go on....and on and on. But I'd rather share some beautiful thoughts on leyning by a kindred spirit - "Why I Leyn: A Manifesto" A good read with which to enter Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom

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