Reading Palestine

Unexpected pleasures

A woman in my congregation called me at work today. She's reading Torah on Rosh Hashanah (as it turns out, she's doing the portion right after mine) and was nervous about her pronunciation, so she wanted someone to listen to her practice, adjust her pronunciation, and help her translate it so she would know how to phrase the Hebrew. Ordinarily she'd ask the rabbi, but we're all trying to refrain from bugging him this week (he's home with the new baby) so she asked whether I could help.

She came down to my office, and we sat on the couch, and I listened to her practice. (She sounded great.) Then we talked through the translation of her passage; it involved a few words I don't know, and I don't have a Hebrew-English dictionary on hand (that'll teach me to leave home without one! If only Penticon supported Hebrew functionality for my Palm Tungsten c) but I was able to figure it out based on syntax. We had a translation on hand; she just wanted to know which English word corresponded with which Hebrew one, and I could more-or-less work that out.

The translating was fun. So was listening to her read. And the whole thing made me conscious of how momentous the last year has been for me. This time last year, this woman and I were both new members at our shul; we were two of the three newbies asked to speak on erev Rosh Hashanah (the holiday's eve) about our wishes for the congregation in the new year. I didn't know her, and I was only beginning to feel at home at my shul. Today I'm part of the community; I know the pleasure of leading this group in prayer; and I'm beginning to grow into the role I want to be capable of.

Our shul just sent out a fundraising letter. Since I run a nonprofit organization myself, I empathize with the difficulty of fundraising in this economic climate. Sadly, no one has yet offered to be a patron of my poetry, which makes me pretty low on the income totem there will be no donation from me this time around. But I like to think that I give to the community in other ways. I'm not writing a check, but I can sit down with congregants and help them learn their Torah portions, and that's a happy thing indeed.