Little Children and Big Dreams
Every Saturday morning at my synagogue, there are three separate services occurring simultaneously: an elementary and pre-school service, a middle school service, and the adult service. Each one, much to my liking, has a set order of prayers. While sitting with my father, I check my watch and see that it’s “that time” already. I quietly leave the adult service, where I am simply a voice in the crowd, following each note which had been set into motion by another, and I waltz into the middle school service, ready to take up the reigns.
Although at times it feels as though I am just the next buffoon in line attempting to yank Excalibur out of the stone, I know that on this day I am King Arthur. I stand tall with a siddur in my hand, a tallis upon my shoulders, and a kippa bestowed on my head. I wait. I sneak a glance at my master sheet, controller of my kingdom’s fate. I breathe. I take in this very moment; time slows to the point at which I can see my own thoughts dancing around inside my head and I set into motion a plan that will be foolproof, yet adaptable. My first words are poised to leap from my tongue. “Okay… So let’s begin with Ma Tovu. Do I have any volunteers?”
I always crave a plan. Something etched out in stone that, when read properly, yields a beautiful symphony. Even when doodling, I feel the overpowering need to ensure the sketch’s proportions are accurate and that there is adequate space for it to call home. However, just like my room, life is not always clean and organized. And by that very nature, it is seemingly impossible to adhere to some previously constructed guideline.
What I had not foreseen happening this morning, or maybe chose to ignore, is the possibility that I have to adapt to the situation. We are only up to the sixth prayer and I’m running out of volunteers. My facial muscles tense up; I begin to fidget with the calluses on my palm. I look to my audience. My eyes flare up, my shoulders elevate, and a smile overwhelms my face. “Can I have all the parents on my left and all the kids on my right?” I ask, while projecting outward with my arms. “I want to see who is going to be louder: the kids or the adults. Ready? Begin.” Their voices fill room with the sound of music. I wouldn’t say that I’m surprised, but rather I am impressed by their gusto as well as my own quick thinking.
The rest of the service proceeds according to my design. At the culmination, as I begin to remove my tallis, relinquishing my new found power, I see a well groomed man heading my way. His hand reaches out in my direction. A chill slithers down my spine quickly enough to tickle the bottom of my feet before his hand meets mine. “Well done,” he says “I hope to see you here more often. In order to perform the way you did, you must have had some formal training. I mean, there is just something about you that my kids and I really connected to.” I firmly shake his hand, thank him for the sentiment, and walk towards my own father with a joyous grin.
A Siddur is a Jewish prayer book.
A Tallis is a special shawl worn when praying.
A Kippa, literally meaning skullcap, is a religious head-covering worn at all times.