The first thing I noticed Saturday was the scant crowd. It's not a huge synagogue but generally the room is filled. Not this week.
Then someone said our Rabbi/Worship leader was not there and the alternative music leader was ill with strep throat. She was telling another person that she had put together a musical program that involved Cds and asked the Davidic dance team to perform praise in dance. I was so disappointed. It's been a long time since I tried to worship with 'canned' music and I've never really seen the dance team perform as they usually step into a side room which isn't easily viewed. I tried hard to bite back the deep disappointment that I felt.
John eventually joined me in the synagogue. "I heard in the back that Rabbi isn't here...and there will be no praise music except Cds..." I could tell he was just as disappointed as I was.
The service progressed pretty much as usual with prayer and Siddur readings. Then the worship portion started. The dancers seemed reluctant and unsure of themselves. The group that normally filled the side room was considerably smaller. There were only five, two younger and three much older women. It was nice but a little awkward too, as they seemed to lack confidence of the moves. They rested frequently and a few sat out a dance. I wasn't familiar enough with any of the music so I couldn't sing along. I don't dance but I love to sing my praises. I felt I couldn't participate in worship at all. My disappointment deepened. I decided I'd just close my eyes and pray for the message portion of the service. I peeked once more at the dancers and saw that one woman was visibly scolding a younger dancer for not pacing her steps better...Oh my! I closed my eyes quickly and went back to my private prayers.
A song came on and I thought the music sounded familiar, but then it stopped abruptly and another song entirely began to play. I looked up and the dancers had begun to drop out of the dance one by one. When there were just two left, I closed my eyes and began to pray once more. And then, more out of curiosity than anything, I opened my eyes.
The remaining dancer was a woman about my age. She is a very nice woman, but plain in dress and look and ways. She is a short woman, a little rounder than some might think best for her height. This woman had become the sole dancer on the floor, outlasting even the youngest of the girls. She danced with complete and total confidence, her movements fluid and graceful, perfectly in tune with the lyrics of the song and the music. My eyes filled with tears as I watched her dance in a state of pure worship before God. She was transformed from a middle aged, plain person to a truly beautiful, perfectly athletic dancer. She twirled and turned and leaped. She bowed nearly to the floor and came up again, hands raised in a lovely attitude of giving all she was to her Lord, her face shining, a smile upon her lips, her eyes bright.
As I watched her dance, I felt overwhelmed. Tears streamed down my face and I felt the sense of wonder, gratitude, awe and praise that she personified as she danced. I heard sniffles throughout the synagogue. This woman had not only transformed before us, she had changed each of us with her complete adoration and devotion. When the song ended, no one moved, watching as she remained bowed before the altar. I saw others wiping tears from their face, heard men blowing their noses into their handkerchiefs. And then the room broke into applause.
Disappointed? No, not at all. The day had been redeemed by this unassuming woman who generally remained in the background working quietly. But not this day. This day we saw the woman God sees and we were overwhelmed.