Cantor Ilan Davidson
Just last month, we had a wonderful visiting group of 8th graders from Temple Israel in Long Beach. During their visit, I invited them to ask me any questions they might have about Temple Beth El, or even about me. Of course, some took this as a challenge to try to ask personal questions that might be provocative, while others asked such insightful questions. One of those that really struck me was from a young lady, who asked, “on a scale of one to ten, how much do you like your job?” After a bit of surprise by this question, I quickly answered, “Eleven.”
This is not to say that there aren’t days and times that my work is frustrating, or overwhelming, but I have been given the greatest gift for the past 25 years, the gift of serving a community that truly appreciates the arts, music, and embodiment of our Judaism within all of it. In short, I have been asked by God and this congregation to be B’tzalel, the architect who was assigned the task of building the Mishkan, the holy place where God’s presence could dwell.
Through cultural and artistic programs, the music surrounding our liturgy, and encouraging our congregation to be a singing, praying community, I, with all of you, have built a place where we can exclaim, “Achein yeish Adonai bamakom hazeh v’anochi yadati,” a play on the words of our forefather Jacob. In this month’s first Torah reading, when Jacob arises from his dream, he says, “behold, God was in this place, v’anochi lo yadati, and I, I did not know.” I have changed it to our realization, “behold, God was in this place, and I, I knew!”
Indeed, through our Cultural Arts programs, now ably led by our chair, Georgia Freedman-Harvey, we experience the presence of God in arts programming, as we proclaim, just as Jacob did, that this is Beit El, the house of God. I hope that we can all rededicate ourselves, this Hanukkah, to participating in upcoming Cultural Arts programs, coming in 2020 as part of the B’tzalel Festival (more to come on this). Through these, we can find the divine, not just in our services, but in our creative, artistic endeavors, as we continue to build this House of God, in prayer, community, learning, and ART!