Friday, May 31, 2024/23 Iyar, 5784

Friday, May 31, 2024/23 Iyar, 5784

Parashat B’chukotai Leviticus 26:3-27:34

Dear Friends,

Shabbat Shalom. This week’s parashah, “B’chukotai,” brings the Book of Leviticus, to an end. It presents us with the carrot and the stick. In essence we are being given a choice between them. A choice that to this day is still a challenge. We can choose to follow the moral and ethical rules that the Torah has set out for us, or not. We are called not only to walk within these Divine laws, but keep (in mind) the religious obligations (mitzvot) and actually do them. In other words, just talking the talk is not enough, we must walk the walk. If we do so, there are supposed to be many rewards.

Among them, the rains will come in their seasons (an important qualifier). The land will produce its crops in abundance, and so will the fruit trees. We will have no war within the Land (of Israel) and we will easily pursue our enemies. We will dwell in security and none will make us afraid. Sounds good doesn’t it? It should, this is the carrot to entice us. It is the reward for doing good.

The stick, however, comes into play if we fail to follow the path. The most terrible things will happen. Things I would rather not mention, but suffice it to say we will not have security, and there will be extreme famine. The details are excruciating. Our enemies may pursue us, instead of the other way around. There may not even be any real enemies to threaten us, but something as benign as the sound of a fallen leaf in the breeze will scare us to death. When things are not right, our spirit will be troubled and we will invent things to frighten us.  

In the days before social media people still were able to gossip, and thereby do damage. One of the worst things about gossiping is that it feeds upon itself. Today, when we ring the alarm bells on social media, we tend to confine ourselves to our own, little, self-affirming bubble. Then we become cut off from other views and different perspectives. In the last week or so, I think our community has been in exactly that place.

It came to light that at Palos Verdes High School, a student published an opinion piece in the yearbook that was critical of Israel. We became outraged, questioning why this was there. Left out of the original revelation was the fact that the school had been having students do opinion pieces for the yearbook for several years. Other students had contributed other editorial pieces, but they have not been part of the conversation, and this context is vital to understanding the situation. We can discuss whether or not opinion pieces belong in the yearbook at all. We can discuss the principle of freedom of speech (which in reality is not free from consequences). We can discuss how this may make us feel, and acknowledge the fact that there is no practical way to publish a counterpoint. What we should avoid is a blind, knee jerk reaction.

This is not meant to ignore some real issues involved here, but is meant to keep things in perspective. This can become a real teaching opportunity. At this point in time the world is war weary. Emotionally we are exhausted by eight months of war between Israel and Hamas. This is particularly true for those of us who have connections (and often family) on either or both sides of the border. So this page in the yearbook did not enter our world in a neutral atmosphere. We are in a very volatile time. Jewish students are afraid to speak out, feeling unsafe on campus. We are all infinitely aware of the rise in antisemitism and the potential for violence. Muslim parents are reluctant to send their children to school for many analogous reasons, and some will not call the police to report an incident because they do not believe the police will care about them.

This is a time to be both aware and active, as well as not permitting a gentle breeze to unnerve us. This is a time to reach out to the Board of Education which Cantor Ilan and I have done. This is the time to find positive ways forward that will strengthen our community and our public education, while making all students feel safe. To that end, a meeting was held by the Board of Education to hear from parents of students at Palos Verdes High. The vast majority of the parents present were Jewish, and spoke respectfully and eloquently. I was proud to be a member of our community.

When we finish reading a Book of the Torah, we say, “Chazak, chazak v’nitchazeik – From strength to strength may we be strengthened.” Today that seems a most appropriate entrance into a Shabbat Shalom, a Sabbath of Peace.

Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Marv

Ilan Davidson


Cantor Ilan Davidson has been pleasing audiences with his singing since before he could read. At age five, he began singing with his Cantor, Philip Moddel, and hasn’t shut up since. At ten, he made his Operatic debut with the Fullerton Civic Light Opera’s production of Bizet’s Carmen, as a street urchin. Since then, he has performed roles in opera and musical theatre, performing, directing, and producing world-class productions.

Among his many accomplishments, Cantor Davidson is also known as a contemporary Jewish songwriter and performer, having delighted audiences all over the world, including Israel and Lithuania with the soulful sounds of his music. His recordings, Stained Glass (1995) and In A Hanukkah Mood (2007) are collections of original and covered songs by himself and many contemporary Jewish artists. His most recent recording, God Is In This Place (2020), is a collection of original liturgical pieces for the Friday night Shabbat Service, commissioned and written in honor of his 25th Anniversary as the Cantor of Temple Beth El.

Cantor Davidson left the stage and in 1995 joined the Temple Beth El family, in San Pedro, where, in his nearly 30 years of service, he has brought many new programs and much enthusiasm to all he does. Coming from a long line of Cantors, it must have been Besheret for Cantor Davidson, although talented in all areas of musical performance, to finally settle down into his career as Hazzan for Temple Beth El in San Pedro, California. In 2007, Cantor Davidson founded a new foundation, KindredSPIRITS, producing an annual world humanitarian aid event. KindredSPIRITS premiered on June 5, 2008 at Walt Disney Concert Hall, adding that prestigious concert hall to the ever growing list of venues around the world, where Davidson has performed. During the 10 years of humanitarian events, Global KindredSPIRITS, Inc., as an official 501©3, raised awareness and close to $500,000 for its beneficiaries over the decade.
As a past president of the South Coast Interfaith Council, Ilan fought for tolerance and understanding of ALL faiths in a difficult climate. For the past 7 years, Cantor Davidson has been service as an LA County Commissioner, representing the 4th District on the Human Relations Commission, where he currently serves as President. Whether it is raising his voice for justice, Hazzanut, Pop, Opera, Musical Theatre, or folk music, Cantor Ilan Davidson shares his soul and genuine love in every note.

When asked about his finest accomplishment, Cantor Ilan invariably responds, “After all the great concerts, services, and roles, my finest role in life is that of husband to my beautiful wife, Jodi, and daddy to my gorgeous daughters, Jordan and Zoe.”

Office: (310) 833-2467 Ext. 106

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