Read "A Midlife Song of Praise" in The Jewish Week

Dvorah Telushkin"I'm standing in a song-leading class at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Cantor David Tilman is leading us in "Ozi V'zimrat Yah" ("You are my strength and my song"). My body is beginning to relax. Natural concerns of middle age - "All four kids will be home for Shabbes, I have to order the chicken, pick up the bok choy" - are beginning to recede. We're belting it out. The sounds are reverberating with wonder. I am beginning to breathe. The Hebrew word to breathe is linshom. Neshama is at its root. The soul. To give life to the soul.

Power singing. Call and response. We are each expected to teach a song to the group. Mine is a Yiddish folk song "G'vald tze Brider," "G'vald, brother." I had spent time preparing it with my voice teacher, Metropolitan Opera diva Atarah Hazzan, yet, to my utter astonishment, I'm beginning to have rapid heart beat. As my turn is approaching, my fingers are cramping, my mouth is becoming dry. A week earlier we introduced ourselves and the same panic sensation overcame me. The students are accomplished musicians and vocal majors, aspiring cantors or rabbis. After hearing one soprano student, I heard myself uttering, "My name is Dvorah, I have no formal musical training, but my love of Tefilah brought me here two years ago and in a way I've been rehearsing my whole life."

Continue reading "A Midlife Song of Praise" in The Jewish Week