I’m a guitarist. When I’m not playing my own music, my favorite piece in the whole world is the Prelude from Bach’s first Cello Suite. Technically, it’s not overly difficult to play, but each note is so rich with potential beauty, both in itself and as it follows from and leads to all the other notes. It’s a simple, yet complex balance of beauty, and every guitarist has his unique approach and insights.
Nonetheless, I rarely get through it without a hitch. Even if I don’t hit any wrong notes, there are always hesitations, weak tones, misses slight or greater. And even though it’s pretty short, each time I play it there are always notes and phrases I like better than others.
Knowing all that, I never pick up my guitar with the intention to only play every other note, or only the notes that appeal to me that moment. I’m in it for its integral beauty. I tell myself that it isn’t that hard and each time, knowing I’ll never get there all the way, I start out aiming for perfection.
I’m pretty sure you can see the link to Shabbat. Its tapestry of observances and restrictions, familiar foods, words and melodies weekly allow us an opportunity to attempt an ever more beautiful expression. I might miss a note or two, forget myself or forget the holiness I’m surrounded by, but I begin each Shabbat hoping to play it just right.