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Punk Torah Blog

. . . Because Kaddish is Rock ‘n Roll

By Jeremiah
December 19, 2012

Rabbi Andrew Hahn

Rabbi Andrew Hahn

On the evening of December 8th, the first night of Hanukah, I had the unique blessing of spending the evening with the great Kirtan Rabbi and the congregation of Beth Shalom in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The evening started with what should have been an hour drive north, but quickly spiraled into an hour and a half drive consisting of me throwing caution and traffic laws to the wind by speeding through alleyways and side streets looking for Temple Beth Shalom. At different points in my quest for Jewish Kirtan through the labyrinth that is Santa Fe I almost walked into an Eastern Orthodox church and a Mosque, look I was lost they are houses of worship and their lights were on with cars outside. Long story short instead of being a few minutes early, I was late by fifteen. As I took my seat in the last row my nerves were shot, I was mad at myself, mad at the streets of Santa Fe, and mad at the world.

 

I have been a fan of Kirtan since the late nineties. Growing up on the East Coast and being an avid adherent of the DIY hardcore punk music scene I was first introduced to the style via records from Khrishnacore punk acts such as Shelter, 108, and Run Devil Run. The crossover between Kirtan and punk in the Mid-Atlantic region quickly led to impromptu side walk Kirtans outside of all ages shows and frequent drives to New Vrindaban in the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

A fan of Reb Drew A.K.A, Kirtan Rabbi from the moment I first heard his music at PunkTorah’s online synagogue OneShul, I often wind down from a stressful day listening to his collected output: Live, Achat Sha’alti (one thing I seek), and Havayah, but recorded Kirtan and live Kirtan are two completely different animals. Recorded Kirtan is great chill out and relax music. Live it is a lot like punk rock, it is a completely participatory act that starts as a fire under your tuchas and quickly grows to engulf your entire being with spiritual fire.

As Reb Drew led the congregation at Beth Shalom through the call and response of Jewish Kirtan the vibratory meditation he and his accompanying musicians and chanters produced soothed my frazzled nerves, and after a few minutes I was foot tapping, hand clapping, head bobbing, and chanting along with both the call and the response. This is the essence of Kirtan. Kirtan is a musical form of meditation designed to clear your being of pressure and burden while focusing on prayer and devotion.

For me the highlight of the evening was his talk regarding the Mourner’s Kaddish and how his unique uplifting version came about. Its all about the reverse bucket list, you know the list you have of things you have actually accomplished in this world not the things you hope to someday do. As a chronic sufferer of Jew-rosis Kaddish normally depresses me but thanks Reb Drew I know view those in my life who have entered the world to come, and whom I miss, as not gone but as combined positive moments in my life.

As much as I would like to provide a chant by chant record highlighting the smiles, the dancing, and the laughter during this very special Hanukah Kirtan no description can ever truly give justice to the experience of live Jewish Kirtan. If you have no clue who or what I am talking about check out Reb Drew at kirtanrabbi.com, and if you are in a position to bring Reb Drew to your community or are in driving distance of his next appearance go and just don’t do it, chant it!

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