It took G-d a mere week to create the world, but how often do we describe the eternity of preparation that must have preceded this watershed moment? Before G-d turned the light switch on, the infinite possibilities of what could be resided in an amaranthine packet of latent potential. None of it existed until G-d took that brave leap allowing the implicit to coalesce into the explicit. Hebrew has the same root for the word Universe (Olam) and Unknown (Alum). The margin between the abyss and genesis is both infinite and imperceptible. Perhaps this is also true, albeit in far more humble dimensions, for humans engaged in sacred work.
Last year I finally launched The Amen Institute – an organization that brings art and Torah into conversation with one another. We have 4 programs that engage thousands of Jews around the world to achieve this in our:
- Rabbinic-Artist Fellowship
- High School Mentorship Program
- Weekly Art Circle Gatherings
- Educational Music Resources
After spending a year and a half having conversations with artists and strategizing our approach, I witnessed my countless all-nighters materialize into an international center of Jewish culture. It felt like an eternity had preceded this landmark moment as I fine-tuned my vision and methodically made my pitch to prospective stakeholders – inviting artists, rabbis, teachers, synagogues, and funders to dream with me. We anticipated an explosive inventiveness that would result when Torah scholars are pushed to see new perspectives on the texts with which they were so familiar when the probing mind of a creative soul could animate their imaginations through the medium of art.
Excitement is an infectious creature. As our tent widened and more keen individuals were introduced to our world, their enthusiasm egged me on and inspired me to think even more expansively. The possibilities kept multiplying as more impressive people got involved, and their imprint only spawned more talent and connections to enter into The Amen Institute’s orbit.
The worst thing one could do in these embryonic stages is to stymie innovative thinking with realism. Especially when vision boarding with creatively bent individuals, living in a playfully open mind frame and keeping expectations unbounded is an essential catalyzing agent to spawn bolder ideas. It is from this outlook that value propositions migrate from Alum to Olam. Success is hinged on the velocity of ideas when coupled with an unflappable spirit to pursue those audacious proposals.
Even so, if all involved parties remain shielded from practical needs, the vision is but a hallucination. It is important to discern between the good and the great when determining the allocation of attention and resources. One should proactively seek growth prospects but not to the point that they compromise the organization’s mission. One should say “yes” as often as possible – while taking those commitments seriously and actually following through.
If you wait for perfection to get things going, you will never get going under perfection’s weight. But if you lose your sense of higher purpose and sacred potential, you may be disappointed in what you are able to create. Forever, and with some sense of futility, we seek to bridge that which already is familiar to us in the universe (Olam) and that which remains unknown (Alum).
Photo Credit: A triptych inspired by Kedoshim, by Ayeola Omolara Kaplan
Dvir Cahana is a third-year Rabbinic student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and founder of The Amen Institute (https://www.theameninstitute.org/) – a creative sandbox for art and Torah “creation.” Dvir has always danced between the worlds of art and Jewish education. His 10 studio albums show a love of Yiddishkeit and wordplay (see https://rivir.bandcamp.com/music and https://harmoho.bandcamp.com/music). He has performed on stages across North America, including Sababa Fest and End of the Weak World MC Challenge. Dvir was a recipient of the Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36” award and sat on Moishe House’s regional advisory board as the founder of the Montreal house. He lives with his wife Shalhevet in Washington Heights.