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Write These Words on Your Heart

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

ומלקחיה ומחתתיה זהב טהור

“Again.”

ומלקחיה ומחתתיה זהב טהור

“Good. Again.”

ומלקחיה ומחתתיה זהב טהור

“Good. Now we look at the trope.”

Mercha tipcha munach sof pasuk

“Right. Again.”

Mercha tipcha munach sof pasuk

“Uh-huh. Again.”

Mercha tipcha munach sof pasuk

“And now, we put the two together.”

I’d done this before. In fact, I’d gotten the preceding seven verses down rather quickly. It was the summer before my thirteenth birthday and I was hard at work on my Torah portion. Though my Bat Mitzvah service was still seven months away, my parents figured that stress-free schedule of the summer would be a good time to get the bulk of my preparation completed.

But then something went wrong. When asked to put the cantillation to the words from Exodus 25:38, I was rendered mute. And it made absolutely no sense. It was one of the simplest cantillation patterns in the entire system. The verse was only four words long. OK — two of the words were multisyllabic. But was that really what had me so perplexed?

That’s when the pounding started. A nice Andante. In this case, about 81 beats per minute. Neither the throbbing of a headache or the beating of the heart. This was DadGiraffe pounding the rhythm on the table. Not our table, but the one in the living area of the Rabbi’s Roost — the official residence for the camp rabbi up at JewCamp.

(pound)-(pound)-(pound)-U’mal-ka-che-ha (pound) u’mach-to-teha (pound) za-hav ta-hor (pound)-(pound)-(pound)

Again. And again. And again and again.

To this day, it is still not clear why setting that one verse to a rhythm made it possible for me to learn it. I didn’t need it for any of the other verses. Nor have I needed to rely on that method for any other verse in the ensuing twenty-seven years.

This portion comes easily to my lips. It has carved out its own nook in the deepest recesses of my cranial folds. But as I chant this same passage each year to mark the anniversary of being called to Torah for the first time, I cannot help but smile as I recall the struggle to make the text my own.


Remembe(RED) is a memoir meme. This week’s prompt asked us to recall something from our childhood that we still know by heart. In order to keep it tightly written, a limit of 600 words. On the cusp of womanhood, I stood poised to take my place in a chain of Jewish women. I just had to learn my Torah portion first… As always, constructive criticism is welcomed!

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Tuesday, 7 June 2011 7:11 am

    The nice thing about reading a post as opposed to listening to someone is that we can have the visual clues that, though we might not have a clue how to pronounce, have meaning to us.
    The Hebrew alphabet is so different from my native English, yet I recognize the symbols.

    I love how you conveyed rhythm to us visually through words. We did not need ears to feel what you were saying.

  2. Tuesday, 7 June 2011 1:06 pm

    that was simply beautiful. Sometimes we all need a little push, don’t we? I little reminder
    this was so eloquently written and how interesting that you still chant it like that, a present from your past.

    Gorgeous.

  3. Jockbro permalink
    Tuesday, 7 June 2011 3:23 pm

    I loved the Rabbi’s Roost. I remember it vividly. It’s where I learned to play Hearts and Gin Rummy. And to this day I think of it when I drink Dr. Pepper, which is often since I live in Texas.

  4. Tuesday, 7 June 2011 4:05 pm

    Music , rhythm – it can really be magical, can’t it?

  5. Tuesday, 7 June 2011 6:35 pm

    What a beautiful look into this time in your life… and how it makes you smile to remember it now. Thank you for sharing this!

  6. Tuesday, 7 June 2011 10:44 pm

    OK, after your comment about really liking and appreciating concrit, I came back to see if there was anything more I could add ! 🙂
    I stand by what I said before; great job at using words (which are visual) to convey a rhythm (which is audio) I had to read this over a few times to really find something to crit.
    The only things I could find that I didn’t quite get were “dadgiraffe”, who I assume is your father, and I presume might have been mentioned via that nickname before. Next, the sentence “Not our table, but the one in the living area of the Rabbi’s Roost — the official residence for the camp rabbi up at JewCamp.”
    The fact that it technically isn’t a sentence is not important; that is a style choice and works fine. But the last few words “…for the camp rabbi up at JewCamp” make me wonder if there’s a word missing somewhere. Is it “..for the camp that the rabbi set up at JewCamp” or is “The Camp Rabbi” the subject? Reading this for the 8th time, I think I’ve figured that out, but it is not readily apparent. I don’t think “The Camp Rabbi” should be capitalized, but I’m not sure how else to make that part more clear. Perhaps “-which is the official residence used by the camp’s rabbi when he is at JewCamp” wouldn’t be too awkward.

    I hope that’s coherent and helpful! It’s late here, and time for bed.

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  1. Prompts | AmyBeth Inverness

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