Cantor’s Column – January 2020

Always Changing, Always Growing

Cantor Ilan Davidson

In our liturgy, we read Shiru L’Adonai shir chadash—Sing unto God a new song. We read these words at least every erev Shabbat, which garners the question, “How can we read the same thing (or do the same thing) every day or week, and call it NEW?”

Often when I speak to groups of students about my work, I suggest that I have some self-diagnosed, adult ADD. Sometimes, I can get distracted or bored very easily. In fact, this is one of the reasons why becoming a Cantor seemed the best choice for me in my life. While prayer can be rote or perhaps redundant when we pray the same words time and time again, the act of praying is always a new song. Those who know me well, have often commented on the fact that every time I lead our congregation in prayer, it feels different, even though the melodies and words might be the same. Bob Remstein, our wonderful Music Director, and I relish the opportunity that we have at every service to reinterpret our liturgy and chants or melodies together, he through his fingers and I through my voice. We take very seriously the obligation that we have to not perform, but to pray, and often, after a service, we will reflect on moments where we were greatly moved by the other’s interpretation.

Prayer is like life. Some might wonder how it is that I could serve the same congregation for 25 years, and not have it become repetitive or rote. As I reflect on these past 25 years and look forward to the many years to come, I am blessed by the ever changing landscape of our temple, our community, our Jewish world, and my ability to contribute to it. Every day, I awaken to the prophetic words of the psalmist, Shiru l’Adonai shir chadash. Basru miyom layom yeshuato. “Sing unto God a new song. Proclaim God’s salvation day to day.” If we awaken each day, prepared to proclaim the presence of the Divine in our lives, empowered to make change in our lives, our community, and our world, and dedicated to greeting each day with renewed newness, then 25 years is but a blip in time, and the future becomes brighter and more exciting every moment. May we welcome the NEWness of 2020. May we share a clearer vision of our place in this universe. May we all be empowered to sing a new song, each and every day.

Speaking of new songs, please be sure to join us, as we celebrate my 25th Anniversary at Temple Beth El, with all new music, by dear friends of mine and of Temple Beth El, who have gifted us with new commissions in honor of this anniversary, Friday night, January 31.