Yad In Hand  

Torah and Yad.

By Marc Flitter

Several Parshas ago I was honored to read from the Torah at Congregation Sof Ma’arav. Asked to share that experience, my first thought was that perhaps “Jewish geography” might more appropriately be utilized to mark where such reading opportunities have been afforded rather than to share the neighborhood locales and designated public schools of one’s youth. On a turning globe it would be the Torah readings, each marked with an inextinguishable flame, that would hail my tribal claims. For what other endeavor could confer such a timeless bond?

The act of the reading itself, the two-fold tasks of first recognition and then vocalization, was no less memorable. Once, at Har Shalom in Durango, Colorado, when standing before the congregation, yad in hand, I experienced a Chagall-like moment as the calligraphic imprimatur of an unknown scribe seemed to dance, upward from the parchment, individual letters that I was then challenged to corral.

The conflicting claims of trope were faced, questions of melody before meaning and style over substance. The choices, although moot to those schooled in the Talmudic clues that uncover the purpose of those incantations, called for my attention. But unsure of such studied measures, I sought, in the familiarity of the interlinear translated text, the power of simple meaning.

Lingering as well was an astonishing brush with near-idolatry, as siddurim and tallit were extended to touch the adorned and silver-plated mystery paraded in anticipation of the reading itself. Who wouldn’t tremble with awe while sharing the deciphered narrative contained in that purposed object of the procession, honored to rest and then unfurled?

Our beautiful Sandra, with great patience and persistence, expertly hewed, from the unproven stone of my prior silence, fixed pronunciations. Under her tutelage the absent vowels and cantillation marks seemed to emerge from the Pali mist to settle reassuringly upon the sacred words.

Finally, as an initiate reader, enveloped in congregational joy, as if being bar mitzvahed once again, I proceeded in great relief, wished from strength to strength, to the relative anonymity and certain comfort by the side of my adored wife.