I hadn’t said the Shema in earnest or even in unearnest in over a decade.
Like riding a bicycle or worshipping a childhood god, the words are not forgotten once you start to move your mouth.
The מ’s are plentiful; an exercise for the lips.
The ך’s, too, are plentiful; an age-old exercise in patience for the anglo’d, diaspora’d baal tshuva.
The א’s are blank slates, white and soft, peppering the text to give your jaw a micro break.
The ב’s feel legit. Sturdy but not too harsh. Meaningful but not too serious.
Like a university chabad house, you know you could always go back, unjudged, but you never really take it up until one day, you find yourself outside, peeking in, with nothing else going on, so you crack open the door and find things mostly how you left.
Like a nursery rhyme, the rhythm is unextraordinary and kind of obvious, but it’s always there in the back of your head, stored away, ready to go.
And like breathing, it’s something you share with millions of other people, even people you’ve never met, even people you don’t like, even people like your kid, who knows it too, even though you realize now, sitting here, that you’ve never actually said it together.
Hear o’ Israel, it’s never too late for an old school prayer.