For twenty-two of your forty-one years with Holy Blossom, I have been lucky enough to work with you, Cantor Maissner and to learn from you. I knew I was lucky to first call you my colleague and my teacher, and then my partner and friend. It has been a true privilege to stand by your side on the bimah shoulder to shoulder and lead this magnificent congregation forward.
One of the things I admire most about you is your natural sense of curiosity. That’s the secret of your youth! And I admire your curiosity for Torah learning in particular. So, a little Torah for this special night…
Moses was a Levi. His descendants, the Tribe of Levi, became the music makers in the Temple that stood in Jerusalem. Cantor Maissner is a Levi! He is a proud inheritor of this God-given assignment, to be the Chief Music Maker of OUR Temple.
Before Moses retired and passed on the mantel of leadership to Joshua, he addressed his people. He instructed the people in how to carry forward to lands of promise just on the horizon. What was the final mitzvah Moses the Levite delivered from God to the Jewish People? What is the 613th mitzvah of our Torah?
וְעַתָּ֗ה כִּתְב֤וּ לָכֶם֙ אֶת־הַשִּׁירָ֣ה הַזֹּ֔את
And now write this song
and teach this song to the People of Israel;
place it in their mouths,
לְמַ֨עַן תִּהְיֶה־לִּ֜י הַשִּׁירָ֥ה הַזֹּ֛את
לְעֵ֖ד בִּבְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃
in order that this song may be My witness for the People of Israel.
“And now write this song”
Dear Beny, you have fulfilled this grand and grand-finale mitzvah with DISTINCTION.
You have not only been an inheritor of Jewish Music, a student of the Cantorial Arts, a vessel of Jewish sounds from across the ages and across the lands wherever Jews have made a home, but you are also a composer of Jewish music. With the rigorous attention to detail, you write the songs. You climb into the notes, and offer each syllable of each word as a sacrifice on the altar. With the grace of the ancient Levites ascending the fifteen steps up to the Temple Mount, you are an embodiment of prayerful devotion to God.
“and teach this song to the people of Israel; place it in their mouths”
Beny, you have fulfilled this mitzvah with abundance, with generosity, and with high expectations. You are a demanding teacher. You have raised many disciples – the sure mark of a successful career. And you have seen countless B’nei Mitzvah to the Torah. You may have scared the Nusach right out of some of them, but they understood that you were putting this Torah into their mouths because 1) you take Torah seriously and 2) you take THEM seriously. Similarly, you have set high expectations for your choirs and for your congregation, which, under your baton has become one enormous choir, 5000 voices strong! You have placed this song into our mouths. Because you raise the bar every time, we now know how to HEAR the music and how to sing the prayerful songs. So please don’t you worry. We know how to offer up the music because you have taught us how. You can now retire with contentment and confidence because God has given this last mitzvah…
“in order that this song may be My witness for the People of Israel.”
Beny, your song is the witness, testifying to our strength and our commitment to the Jewish future. Your legacy will be witness to the future of Holy Blossom Temple. Your leading voice will ring in the ears of the Jewish People for generations to come because you have made your mark on us. You have changed us for the better. You say the music belongs to us. And we treasure you for it.
So Yasher Ko-ach, Beny, on fulfilling this mitzvah of a lifetime! You have written this song. You have taught it to your people. You have placed this never-ending song into our mouths. And it will be a lasting witness to the good that is to come.
Originally, this night was to be a gorgeous concert in our historic sanctuary and a delicious gala in our magnificent new Schwartz/Reisman Atrium. When Corona took us by surprise, we knew we’d have to find a way to celebrate online. And we came to call it a L’Chayim. Why a “L’Chayim”? Because tonight – in the midst of a global pandemic, at a time of real isolation and under the shadows of real fears – we need to come together and affirm this beautiful and messy God-given life.
So thank you, Cantor Maissner, for giving us one more gift. That is reason to celebrate in the midst of a challenging time. Thank you, for being a bright light every day. And especially now, when we long to be reminded of what it means to belong to a people, to belong to an extraordinary congregation to be inheritors of traditions that are old and strong and enduring. Tonight’s celebration came right on time, when we need you most, Beny. You continue to be with us when we need you to lift our spirits.
We thank the 120 volunteers who have this year of celebrations joyful, meaningful and memorable. I must single out the co-chairs of the Cantor’s Celebrations Committee. They are the extraordinary Helena Fine and Susan Cohen. We thank the producer of tonight’s program, Alan Gordon for his vision and direction. And we thank our unstoppable Director of Communications, Deanna Levy.
We thank everyone for joining us tonight from near and far. I understand there are more than 3000 screens open for this celebration, so that must be more than five or six thousand people with us. We thank you for the generosity you are showing to honour Cantor Maissner. The gifts you make now will ensure the continuation of Cantor Maissner’s musical legacy of excellence for years to come.
To cap off this wonderful night of celebration and loving tribute, I invite everyone to raise a glass wherever you are and at the count of three we’re going to shout: “L’Chayim!” Ready? Achat… Shteiyim… Shalosh…. L’Chayim!!