It was a mincha on a Shabbos.
“Levi Ben,” said the rabbi, pointing at me.
I froze in shock.
“But I’m not a Cohen,” I said.
“I know,” said the rabbi. “Come on up.”
I walked up in shock. I had never been called first to the Torah before. I hadn’t been called to the Torah period in about six months. I was not at all sure I was worthy of being called to the Torah.
I had become Back Seat Levi, always looking hide in the back. Let Disjointed Luke fade away. Let mature Levi take his place.
So I walked up to the Torah and my face was flushing and my heart was pounding and I was trying to remember what to do. I took the little pad and touched the scroll where the rabbi’s pointer directed me and then I took the handles of the Torah and lifted them and set them down and then I looked at cheat sheet and read off the blessing. Everyone responded appropriately. Nobody said, “Get that shmuck out of here!”
I followed the rabbi as he read the parsha. The script was much harder to read on the scroll than it was in the chumash.
The rabbi finished. I took the pad and brushed the scroll and lifted the Torah and gently let it fall and then I turned to the cheat sheet and I got all discombobulated and my recitation of the second blessing was disjointed.
Then I let go off the Torah scroll and shook hands and moved to the right and let the next man go.
Normally I charged out of shul right after mincha. My social anxiety tended to kick in after about an hour or two of shul. It had only been this way since September of 2007, but ever since then, it was hard for me to stay in shul longer than an hour.
This day I sat down after mincha and I studied the parsha and I enjoyed the hell out of the spirited singing.
A man loomed over me and his hand came out and here it comes, I thought, he’s going to punch me in the face, but he was only shaking my hand and inquiring about where I’d been the past seven weeks.
“I have this Alexander Technique teacher training,” I said. “It’s very tiring. I haven’t been leaving my place during the weekends so I can rest up.”
I didn’t mention my surgery. I just shook his hand again and kissed my fingers (as has been my practice for about three years, I fell in love with other people doing it and adopted it as my custom).
And then I felt that things were going so well, I had better just leave while I’m ahead. Never overstay your welcome, I thought. It makes you look needy.
PS. My friend Will “went to a lecture where the Rabbi said the amount of hatred non-Jews have to Jews always depends on how much senseless hatred Jews have for other Jews. Gentiles reflect what Jews feel towards ourselves. Rather than write about Gentiles who don’t like us, which we can’t control, we should worry about Jews who don’t get along with each another.”