This is part of Kirtan Rabbi’s Gift of Listening: Eight Days, Eight Songs. To hear this candle and the previous ones, please click on the:
Zikr is one long chant, which has an invisible marker in the middle which makes it into two tracks on Nondual. Zikr is secretly – well not any more – my favorite song on the album. It was quite amazingly synchronistic. When we did the final take, my producer, Frank Wolf, turned to me and said, “Well, now you have your huge ‘Epic’.” And then everyone else who worked on it or heard thereafter all independently used that same word to describe Zikr. EPIC.
The music has an eerie James-Bond-theme like timbre. You almost feel sage brush blowing across the prairie – especially at the beginning. It has an amazing violin solo at the end, so please listen all the way through. More than any other mantra on this album, I believe Zikr has the capacity to put you in a deeply, deeply altered state!
Zikr certainly was a challenge to create. Essentially, for eleven minutes, the same phrase is repeated again and again and again and again — which is just what a Zikr is supposed to do. It is essentially a Sufi practice which found its way into Jewish practice centuries ago. And then I went and kirtanized it.
Related to the word for ‘memory,’ you should imagine a zikr going on all night, with the participants dancing in a circle, getting faster and faster and more fervent, the drums beating and the sweat pouring. The idea may be to remember the pearl of truth in the words, by repeating them so many times and — most importantly — getting them into your body.
While I had heard this chant many times before, this tune really sank in during my work as Visiting Rabbi at Metivta: a center for Jewish Meditation in Los Angeles. Specifically, when I was co-leading a silent retreat in the Valley, one of the other leaders, Evelyn Baran, guided us in this chant. During the ensuing, long meditation, the words and melodies kept going in my head. Even though I wasn’t moving, I felt my head bobbing in the six directions. It really functioned as the best of what a mantra is supposed to be: it brought into focus what was to become very deep meditation for me.
Somewhere in a parallel mind stream on the meditation-scape – or maybe later, I don’t remember — I had the sneaky, less than fully noble thought: “Wow. I could really hook this up!” And so the next chant after Havayah came into being. (I often segue between these two chants live; the offer a kind of masculine/feminine, Shiva/Shakti effect for me.
The words of the chant.
This Zikr has the following words:
Adonai Melech, Adonai Malach, Adonai Yimloch l’olam vo-ed
Yah rules, Yah ruled, Yah will rule for ever and ever.
You can easily substitute the word “is sovereign” for rules, if it bothers you. Essentially, I have decided to understand the language of Kingship (malchut), antiquated as it is for us, to more correctly express God’s state of constant activity. God is always producing this world, and were God to stop, even for he blink of an eye, giving the world vitality (chiyyut), it would disappear instantly.
The tenses in the phrase are a bit strange. Why? Because it oddly moves from present tense, to past, and then back to future. Not exactly what we would expect. The sages say that this is to emphasize that we truly only live in the present, in the now: Past and future are rolled into what eternally exists. I invite more thoughts on this, especially on the Facebook Post.
Finally, what does the phrase l’olam vo-ed, for ever and ever, mean? What does it come to teach us about nondualism? It was in pondering this that I realized something very interesting.
Most of the mantras which inculcate nondual consciousness are spatial in nature: They say that God is every where; or that God is every thing; or that there is no place devoid of God. But what about time? Is there not also a sense of a temporal non-dual expression? Well, I think that’s precisely what we find here (as well as in the sister chant Havayah which, interestingly, also features the phrase l’olam vo-ed). Simply put, God is not only every where; God is every time. God fills (m’malei) the run of time, and – of course – God is beyond (soveiv) time all together.
Both the phrase, “forever and ever,” as well as putting the present first help us to remember this Truth.
This chant features the virtuosic Meg Okura on violin.