Partnership minyans are a relatively new phenomenon in our part of northwest London, so when one started around the corner from us, my husband and I made a point of going with our three young children. We’ve been half a dozen times in the past but this Shabbat was the first time that I had the opportunity to participate.
I walked in and sat down, ready to sing and listen to the men and women leading the service. Before I had a chance to open my siddur though, one of the organizers approached me.
“Would you like an aliyah?” she asked.
Too surprised to give it much thought, I answered yes. Only in the minutes afterward did I have a chance to think about what it meant. Having an aliyah was always something that I thought one day would happen, but I had figured that I would need more advance preparation. I read through the blessings I had heard many a bar mitzvah boy read aloud and felt ready.
When my turn came, the gabbai called my name and I approached the bima, podium. I kissed the Torah, held on to the etzei chayim and recited the blessing. The same blessing that I had heard my father, a Kohen, repeat so often at our local synagogue growing up. As I said the words, it was his voice I heard coming through.
Then as I stood next to the person reading Torah, I was able to directly see the beautifully inscribed letters as she recited them. I was totally focused on the Torah reading and the portion, oblivious for once of my young daughter running around or the other distractions I normally get drawn to in synagogue. When the reader finished, the gabbai recited a mi’sheberach prayer for my family, making an official connection between one generation and the next. I will forever have a connection to the seventh aliyah of Parashat Emor, and felt honored to have the chance to participate so publicly.
I made my way back to my seat amid smiles and whisperings of yasher koach from friends, acknowledging that I was part of the service and, for the first time, more than an observer.