What is Kirtan?

Most chants in a kirtan will begin softly, slowly and with deliberate concentration in order to build up the kavannah (intention). A phrase here and a phrase there. The words do not matter; the intonation and the resulting connection with the divine do. As the chant goes on, it will usually pick up in pace and volume.

The excitement becomes rampant. Most everybody finds himself or herself swaying to the music and many discover a need to get up and move their bodies in sufi-like dance and others close their eyes and simply listen.

After some time, most chants will slow down and come to their natural conclusion. Often a short moment of silent meditation follows.

Depending on the needs of the moment, the kirtan leader will break any and all of these “rules.” For example, when the meditation grows to an ecstatic pitch, it often just happens that everyone is singing continually; the call-and-response form has dropped away.

Who can participate?

Hebrew kirtan is for anyone who is open to it.

Singer and non-singer alike. Jew and non-Jew. No knowledge of Hebrew is necessary. It’s enough to know that one is chanting and praising the beauty of the world.