Posted on November 23, 2013 by Naomi Bilmes
From my blog:
In college, Shabbat was always the most social time of the week. I spent Sunday through Friday holed up in my room reading 19th century literature, tucked into a corner of the library writing short stories about God, or sitting studiously in a PowerPoint-endowed classroom, furiously scribbling notes. On Shabbat, I would let all of that go and just see my friends.
But now, every day at Pardes is a friend-fest. I love friends, I do, but as an introvert, I seriously miss my novel-reading and creative writing time. And my time to go for walks and wonder about why that woman covers her hair and wears pants and whether that other woman really wanted to have all seven of those kids and where the hell is her husband?
So today I took the day off from people (although I didn’t think nearly enough about head-coverings as I might have). I got up around 7:45 and got to synagogue right after it started. To my dismay, they were praying super fast, but I decided to go at my own pace and say all the prayers. Whoa, what a novel idea. This morning, I found a few lines in the opening psalms that spoke directly to my heart, whereas oftentimes they speak directly to my brain and tell it to go back to sleep. I did the shema and amidah at my own pace, paying special attention to the vowels in the shema so I could internally review for my Biblical Hebrew Grammar class. I was all caught up by the Torah reading, and I listened to the whole, wonderful parsha.
After synagogue, I did not linger at kiddush, deciding to avoid trying to make conversation with people whose community I cannot join because shuls just aren’t like that in Jerusalem. I walked directly home, made a plate of Friday night leftovers, said kiddush, and ate while reading As a Driven Leaf. Then I sat on the couch while reading As a Driven Leaf. Then I dozed. Then I shifted position on the couch while reading As a Driven Leaf. Did I mention that I miss reading novels?
Around 3:30, I davened mincha (out loud!) in my apartment. Then I sang. A lot. All the Shabbas songs that I love but are too hard to teach newbies at a Shabbas meal; some songs that I hadn’t sung in years; some songs that I didn’t even know I remembered. And I used the beautiful new songbook that one of my Pardes teachers inscribed to me in compact, graceful, blue Hebrew letters.
When I sing in a group, I am often self-conscious about my voice: will I start the song too high? Does it sound like I’m singing with my throat instead of my diaphragm? Does that cantorial student across the table loathe every note that passes my lips? When I sang today, however, I sang with no thought of anyone else. Just the words, the melody, and me. And God. And my voice sounded more beautiful than it had in a long time. Not only did I enjoy singing, I even enjoyed listening to myself. Hopefully Hashem (and maybe the people across the hall) enjoyed it, too.
And now, just because I like Foxtrot:
And now, just because I like Walt Whitman:
To a Stranger:
Passing stranger! you do not know how longingly I look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, (it comes to me, as of a dream,)
I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall’d as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured,
You grew up with me, were a boy with me, or a girl with me,
I ate with you, and slept with you—your body has become not yours only, nor left my body mine only,
You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass—you take of my beard, breast, hands, in return,
I am not to speak to you—I am to think of you when I sit alone, or wake at night alone,
I am to wait—I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.