When I first chanted Megilah at 19, I was harassed on the bima. I’m still not laughing, decades later.

It is almost the spring of my second year at Hebrew Union College, and I am studying cantillation.

I love it. I feel clever when I get it right and adore picking up the little nuances that only the cognoscenti appreciate.

The faculty chair asks if I will chant an excerpt from Esther on Purim during the school-wide service. I demur a bit, because I have mastered only haftarah chant so far and am just starting on Torah. Esther cantillation is part of next year’s curriculum. Still, I say yes, feeling sure that I can learn it, at least well enough to chant the assigned verses, which are Esther 7:5-10. Only a few verses, with lots of “Hamans,” so there will be lots of traditional noisemaking in the congregation to blot out his villainous name. I am excited.

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