Shlomo’s Gaze

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This is an unfinished draft, written sometime in the 1990s.
Shared in honor of Shlomo Barnoon, former Torah-reader and Cantor for the High Holidays at Congregation B’nai Israel.

The Torah was raised, displayed, re-rolled, and covered.

Shlomo relinquished his place behind the reading stand as his daughter prepared herself to sing the Haftarah. She moves some things around on the table – things we could not see – but the action made her seem important, ready, comfortable. He sat in front of me, and slightly askew, so I could see his profile. Ayelet chanted, and father followed the text carefully, gently mouthing the words in support. His face was peaceful and pleased. She was doing well, and he could be proud.

A sweet distraction was created nearby. Two deliciously beautiful five-year-old girls in charming shabbat dresses were gossiping earnestly (or maybe discussing sacred texts, since they struggled to balance their prayerbooks). Their intense discussion was hushed by nearby adults. One of the girls skipped off to touch base with her parents several rows back–but returned dutifully to her friend in the front row.

Throughout, Shlomo followed Ayelet’s chanting with his finger, his eyes glued to the text. The restless five-year-old journeyed off again, passing in front of Shlomo. The proud and peaceful father was distracted just enough to raise his eyes and follow the lovely child for a brief moment. His eyes smiled, and his lips were parted with words from the text. And then just as gently, he looked down again and was back with Ayelet. But for a moment, he remembered her as a lovely five-year-old.

Time had vanished, years galloped.