It was an easy enough prayer to recite. The blessing before and after a Torah reading is the first one you learn when you become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. It is essentially implanted into the brain of every 12 year old Jew and remains there for the rest of your life. Consider it the Hail Mary of the Jewish religion. Every Jew with an ounce of religious upbringing knows it. So when Dave and I were asked to lead our congregation in this blessing on Yom Kippur this past Saturday, we were both honored and comfortable with the task. We knew this one cold.
Which was why we didn’t practice reciting it together prior to being called up to read it.
Actually that is not entirely true. Saturday morning about an hour before the service as I passed Dave on the stairs at home, we had a conversation about it that when something like this:
Me: You know we have an aliyah today?
Dave: Yeah – the Torah blessing, right?
Me: Yeah, we’re cool with that right?
Dave: Yeah. (He begins to chant) Bar’chu et Adonai ham’rovach….
Me: (Chanting back at him) Baruch Adonai ham’vorach l’olam va-ed…… yada, yada, yada. Ok, roger that.
We continued on our separate ways, having only exchanged about one fifth of the entire prayer. A fatal mistake.
Cut to the chase. Towards the end of Saturday’s service, we are indeed called up to recite the prayer. I proudly walked up onto the bima with my husband. We nodded at each other and began to chant together:
Bar’chu et Adonai ham’vorach….
And then it all went terribly wrong. Neither one of us can say for sure who screwed up but suddenly we were singing from two different songs. Time stood still and everything went into slow motion. We stopped and tried to figure out where we were. The Cantor moved in to point to our place on the prayer sheet before us. What must have amounted to 5 seconds felt like 40 years in the desert as we struggled to start again.
We had screwed up the Hail Mary of the Jewish religion.
At that moment saying a few Hail Mary’s was a rather appealing option. But we recovered, finished the prayer, and chanted the second prayer (after the Torah was read beautifully by a 14 year old girl) without incident.
Still, I was completely mortified.
I pasted a smile on my face and we walked back our seats. I swear I heard Noah mumble “epic fail” as we sat down next to him. True to form, Dave was emotionally over our blunder before his seat got warm. I, however, will require years of therapy.
But then I thought about the holiday for which we were given this honor. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement — a day to repent for what we have done wrong – and grant forgiveness to those who ask it of us. Frankly, if there were a holiday to mess up the easiest Torah blessing in front of several hundred people, this would be the one. I was sorry — and immediately forgiven by the entire Congregation without ever needing to say a word.
On another day, Dave and I might have played the blame game and asked for the instant replay to see who messed it up. But oddly, on this occasion we traded sheepish smiles and silently agreed that the flub was ours to share. And in an odd way, that joint ownership of the largest blunder of the High Holy Days felt comforting.
It is just under one month until Noah’s Bar Mitzvah when we will once again have the chance to chant the same blessing together. I think a rehearsal or two before then would serve us well. Learning from your mistakes is painful But not as painful as NOT learning from them.
So hon, from the top, altogether now: Bar’chu et Adonai ham’rovach….