There's a venerable old saying that tells us to face our fears as a way of getting over them.
I've been doing just that - or trying to - by doing something that, in the Jewish religion, is considered a mitzvah, or good deed: reading the Torah during religious services.
I'm not talking about picking up the prayer book and reading a few passages, or watching Mel Brooks carry the Ten Commandments down the mountain during the hilarious "History of the World Part I".
I'm talking about walking up in front of EVERYONE, standing in front of the scroll, and reading - and singing - an entire portion or two. I've done it a few times a year for the past several years, and I still quake in my boots whenever I do.
Imagine standing in front of a crowd reading a book out loud. Not so bad, right? Now imagine that you have to sing the book. A little more difficult. Now imagine that someone took all the vowels out of the words. How's that book looking now? How about, just for fun, we remove all the punctuation and paragraph marks? Did I mention that the letters are all in Hebrew? THAT's what reading Torah is!
If you haven't ever seen a Torah scroll up close, that's pretty much what it looks like. Torahs are written in Hebrew letters with no punctuation or vowels, and worse, many different letters or sounds can look exactly the same in that format. Sheer terror!
And I keep doing it. Willingly! Why? Because relatively few people can, or are willing to try. Because they invented some really neat software to help you learn the various passages. Because it makes you feel terrific when you get up there and do a great job at it. Because it's fun to do something you might have HAD to do as a kid, merely because you WANT to do it. Because it makes you feel part of a service, rather than just an observer. And because my wife does it as well, and when we go up and read consecutive portions, people are really impressed with us. And who wouldn't like that?