This family collaboration, Bezallel Koli, is a Torah and Art pilot project, which seeks to create a collection of weekly Divrei Torah combined with a visual artwork, a song, and a poem, all in dialogue with each other and the words of Torah. The larger aim is to broaden parshanut into an artistic endeavor and inspire others to do the same, thereby creating connections between Jewish artists and revitalizing the ways in which we can engage in Torah interpretation. Making consistent art based off of the Torah portions in different mediums, will invite new platforms and contemporary voices to the conversation.
When we were all home during Corona-virus, hunkering in, Dvir and Briah Cahana began studying the weekly Torah portion together over shabbes and many ideas sparked as they discussed various midrashim and parshanim. Inspired by their generative learning, they came up with the idea to have this artistic Parsha collaboration. The name, Bezallel Koli, came from the artistic icon of the Torah, Bezallel, who was in charge of building and designing the mishkan. His creativity became the access point to G-d for the rest of the nation. Koli, meaning “my voice”, is a desire to tap into our artistic spirits to channel that impulse to create, in our own voices.
Our father, a congregational rabbi, always infused his yiddishkeit with a whimsical poetic flare. He inspired his members and many people encircling our communities that to live Jewishly, in addition to living ethically, is to live aesthetically and poetically. Judaism is love poetry to G-d and His Creation and our Avodah is to make manifest that beauty in our world. Soon after we launched the project, we thought it would be perfect to have our father also be part of the collaboration.
Coming from an artistic home, we have often found it curious and disappointing that other people did not grow up with such an innate sense of the intertwining of creativity and Judaism. Our personal hope is that this project will rectify that to some extent, and inspire others to find ways to explore our tradition through their own creative, artistic lens.
Bezallel Koli became an exciting innovative space where the Cahana trio felt an exhilarating sense of purpose. Its collaborative nature along with its unrestricted form made for, if nothing else, a deeply powerful introspective tool. Although, it, in and of itself, was deeply fulfilling, Bezallel Koli was limited as it asked its hosts to look deeply inward. It would be undermining to merely define Bezallel Koli as a glorified family therapy transcript, because its structure allowed for exploration in far-ranging topics. However, that exploration was always sourced from the same three people. What was undeniable, however, was that deep feeling of fulfillment, and this, Dvir had discovered would become the untapped potential that they had managed to capture. If the intersection of art and Torah could evoke such fulfillment, and if it could be harnessed as a powerful learning modality while incorporating more contributors with a sophisticated background in either Torah study or Art creation, than we have arrived at something with intrinsic value and extrinsic reach.
Arriving at the idea of the Amen Institute, with its two fellowships, artists retreats, art exhibitions, creation circles, spotlighting a Jewish Artist of the Week to be featured in synagogues’ newsletters throughout North America… did not come overnight, it grew out of a process of deep listening, and learning. And as we continue to listen, we will continue to respond. Respond by serving Jewish artists, respond by inspiring Jewish learning, respond by listening to those who feel unheard. And let us respond… AMEN!