Cantor’s Column – February 2019

Hevruta or Collaborators

Cantor Ilan Davidson

Throughout Jewish history, there has always been one individual who took precedence over almost all others (except family). This person was known as the Hevruta, the study partner with whom Jewish scholars often spent even more time than they did with their families. This partner would challenge you to think bigger, interpret sharper, and ultimately be a better student of Torah, life, and the intricacies of the relationships between both. So often in February, we spend time concentrating on our love relationships, but how often do we think outside the box and consider who our Hevruta or Collaborators might be, who make us better in other ways. Seh l’cha rav, uk’ne l’cha chaver… Make for yourself a teacher; acquire for yourself a friend.”

This past month, I had the annual pleasure of attending a retreat with more than 80 colleagues from the Cantor Assembly, American Conference of Cantors, and Guild of Temple Musicians. Often people ask me what we do at these conferences. In analyzing this more than 30 year traditional gathering, I had a chance to reflect on the changes over time. It used to be that we would bring in a scholar in residence, spend formal time in study, and come back exhausted and financially depleted by the expense of our conference. Now, we have become more enlightened. We analyzed what we “needed” from these retreats. Overwhelmingly, the answer was Hevruta, a sense of belonging and sharing with our colleagues, who we never get to see. Funny thing… we all work the same crazy hours.

Indeed, today we don’t spend the funds on expensive speakers. We spend the time sharing with each other, learning from all of our internal “experts.” We recognize that each of us is an expert at something, and that goes beyond the cantorate. Just a couple of years ago, we opened the retreat to ALL synagogue musicians, allowing Bob Remstein and I to share more about our special Hevruta at Temple Beth El. Our collaborations have changed the very arc of our prayer experience, and lifted both my voice and his accompaniment to a higher level. We cherish the relationship that has been built through trust and love for our music and this congregation, and that partnership is now celebrated at our retreat, by including not just the Cantors, but ALL synagogue musicians.

The time we spend together in Hevruta, holy collaboration, is truly a cherished act. Extending it beyond our Temple walls is a great goal for all of us. As I look at new collaborative programs, upon which I am working with other colleagues for future years, I know that we will all be enriched by our participation. This month of reflection on relationships, make sure to reach out to your Hevruta in your lives and thank them for raising you to higher level of enlightenment, success, holiness, and love.