Kirtan Rabbi Blog

Eight Days, Eight Songs. Candle One: Kedushah Medley (Tracks 1 & 2 from Nondual)

Posted by Rabbi Andrew Hahn, Ph.D. on December 17, 2014 at 7:32 pm.

Together, these first two tracks of Nondual, offered me an opportunity to start the CD by expressing gratitude to my Reform Jewish upbringing — an upbringing which did not always work for me when I was young, but which I have come to appreciate more as time goes on. The two tracks form a medley, meaning that they both segue one into the other and that they use the same mantra. For me, this was meant as a bit of a joke, as you’ll see: the mood between the two tracks couldn’t be more different.

The first track, Kedushah Traditional, is a new-fangled, 21st century remake — replete with harmonium and tanpura drone — of the choir in the pipes I remember so well. We would sit in synagogue listening (and only listening) to the opera singers from on high. We dared not participate at all, God forbid, by singing along! So, as a beginning of the album,I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to take this famous melody (with a variation) from the 19th Century composer, Louis Lewandowski, and make that choir my response singers in a kirtan!”

After a very intentional “Dorothy we are not in Kansas anymore” psychedelic tone, the Medley segues into Kedushah Reggae. This song, in an equally humorous fashion, refers to my Reform Jewish background… but I’m going to let you all figure out how and why that is.

This mantra is called the “Kedushah” (Holiness) from its characteristic repetition: Holy, Holy, Holy – which the angels sing in Isaiah 6:3. The full verse is:

Holy, holy holy is Adonai of Hosts. The whole earth is filled with God’s Glory.
Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh. Adonai Tz’vaot. M’lo chol ha-Aretz k’vodo

The second major motif, also comes from that section of the prayer service which is itself called the Kedushah:

And they asked one another: Where is the place of God’s glory?
Sho-alim zeh la-zeh: Ayei m’kovodo

So how does this chant, especially the second track, tell us something about Nondual consciousness? First of all, Jewish nondual tradition has taken the second half of the first mantra – The whole earth is filled with God’s Glory – as perhaps the statement that God is everywhere and that leit atar panui minei (that there is no place empty of God). That’s a pretty clear philosophical statement: When the veils and coverings are peeled away, we ultimately “know” that everything is God and that God is everywhere. So, it’s kind of strange that the angels go on to ask one another, right after saying that, “Where is the place of God’s glory?”

As I’ll talk about more in the coming days, it is just such a tension between two feelings that makes for a true nondual consciousness. It’s not just that we use our heads and say, “it’s all God,” or even, “It’s all for the good.” We also, being human, feel a strong yearning, a sense of lack, a desire even so, to cry out: “Even though I know You’re everywhere, Where, O where, are You?!” In our condition, we go back and forth – ratzo va-shov – between a cosmic truth and the longings of our heart for knowing where You are. For this reason, I changed the traditional verse from third person and made it… Where is the place of Your glory?

In the jazz mashup in the end, my angels — Cantor Meredith Greenberg and Emily Stern — fade out asking, Ayei, Ayei, Ayei: Where, Where, Where.

Kedushah Reggae features: Frank Wolf on lead guitars and the CNP Horns – Thomas Hutchings, Indofunk Satish and Matthew McDonald.

Kedushah Traditional features beautiful clarinet playing by Steve Gorn, who also plays bansuri flutes on All Worlds – tomorrow’s track of the day.

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