Well, the High Holy Days have officially come and gone. We haven't yet celebrated Sukkot or Simchat Torah, but this year I was only responsible for singing for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. I have to admit that I'm incredibly relieved they're over, not so much for the heavyness or importance of the days, but because the fear and trepidation of my first set of holidays as cantor are officially over. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted, and life can once again return to normal (though I'm still trying to figure out if life will ever be "normal" as a Jewish leader...)
Yom Kippur services went really well, and despite some musical mistakes, I felt much, much more calm and competant on the bimah. Kol Nidre (the evening service that begins Yom Kippur) went especially well. At the end of the service, the rabbi thanked me in his closing announcements, telling the congregation how pleased he was to be working with me and how much I brought to the service. It was really, really nice of him to say, and really nice to hear. After the service was over, I thanked him for his kind words, and he said, "well, ya kinda earned it..." I'm glad he was pleased with my addition to the service and the mood we both created together. I'm even gladder to be able to work with Eric; he's been a pleasure to work with, and he never seems to mind when I ask him a million questions (even the silly, obvious questions.) I love his insights and anecdotes, both during services and in those moments when we're working together one-on-one. He has an energy that I very much need and appreciate, and in my opinion, we balance each other out well on the bimah.
One of the most meaningful moments of Yom Kippur came during Kol Nidre, when instead of singing the typical Debbie Friedman Mi Sheberach (a prayer for healing), I led the congregation in Leon Sher's Heal Us Now. It's a really beautiful piece, despite it's potential for cheesyness, and the congregation LOVED it. As I sang it, I couldn't help but think of those I love who needed the prayer: The Spinrads, their friend Toney, my Aunt Evelyn, my mom, and others. It totally, totally changed the way I sang it, and even I was almost moved to tears. I'm glad it went well, and I'm hoping to use it every now and then as a nice change of pace on Shabbat.
Another meaningful moment came between the morning and afternoon services. The congregation has a tradition of hosting a symposium, where 3 congregants tell their life stories; they speak of their childhoods, their connection to Temple Beth El, their Jewish identities, and whatever else happens to come up. This year, I was able to hear the stories of Mona, Mitch, and Millie. All 3 stories were powerful, but to hear 90-year-old Millie speak was incredibly moving. Her brain is sharp as a tack, and she told us all about her parents, children, and the love she experienced with her late husband. The whole room was crying when she talked about the last year of her husband's life, and how he prepared her for what she'd need to know and do once he passed. She spoke of the love they experienced in that year, complete and unconditional, fully knowing what was ahead, fully understanding how little time they had left. All I could think of was my hope to find that kind of love, to someday be in a position similar to that. While imminent death is never good, to feel that kind of love so completely is a joy I need and want to experience.
Overall, my HHD experience was fantastic. And I'm so, so, SO happy it's over for the year. I'm looking forward to the day when I can think less about notes and rhythms and choreography and logistics and focus wholly and completely on prayer and my congregation. It will come eventually, but for now, the prayer is found within the learning.