December 22, 2011
Opinion: Good writing counts
(Page 2 - Previous Page)
November 8, 2011
English 10 Honors
My Los Angeles Jewish Experience
There is nothing more fulfilling than the first few weeks of fall. The time we chant the story of Hagar and Ishmael, recite the Vidui, and pray that we are inscribed in the Book of Life. It is a time of year when we rid ourselves of the past and start over with a clean slate. The pure white robes worn by the Cantors and Rabbis, the blasts of the shofar, and the cello playing “Kol Nidre” create a meaningful aura that separates this time from the rest of the year.
It was 11 o’clock in the morning and my family and I walked into the main sanctuary of the historic Wilshire Boulevard Temple, the oldest house of Jewish worship in Los Angeles. Murals cover the walls, telling the story of the Jewish people throughout early history. One cannot help but be inspired. The choir began to sing: “Mah Tovu, how good is it to be here.” The words of this prayer perfectly capture the emotions permeating throughout the congregation, linking past generations to the present.
The Rabbi announced that it was time to rise for the Amidah. I rose with the rest of the congregation and then proceeded to walk down the long aisle until I reached the stairs leading up to the bimah, per the cantors instructions. I stood next to the president of the temple and chanted the rest of the Amidah until the ark was closed. We finished our prayer and then, I walked over to the podium to stand beside the Cantor and Rabbi. Thousands of eyes were on me. As I stood in this historic and holy sanctuary, between two of my mentors and spiritual leaders, I felt secure and excited to be part of this sacred morning service. The Cantor leaned over and reassured me. I took a deep breath and prepared to lead the congregation in prayer. The piano played an interlude and I began to sing: B’rosh Hashana yi-katei-vun, u’v Yom tsom Kippur y’cha temun, on Rosh Hashanah our fate is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed.
It was an auspicious way to begin the year, singing the words of my ancestors in such a magnificent and spiritually enriching environment. Our rabbi spoke of how we must “hold the Torah high,” a metaphor that inspires us to live full and meaningful lives. Singing these words in this sacred space was my way of “holding the Torah high.” I felt particularly enriched as I walked down the steps from the bimah to join my family once more.
As the service concluded and we left the sanctuary, numerous friends and congregants approached me with compliments. I felt myself blushing, but greatly appreciated their sincerity and trust that the cantor placed in my abilities. I look forward to services next year and I hope I will have the opportunity to sing once more. The temple is undergoing a major renovation, and High Holiday services will be held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion downtown. I can only wonder if the historic and sacred presence will transfer to the temporary location.