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Rabbi to the Yogis Chants Shema Yisrael alongside Festival’s Hare Krishnas

By: for on Oct. 2, 2012
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Kirtan rabbi Andrew Hahn
“Kirtan Rabbi” offers a pre-Sabbath Hebrew concert for third straight year at Bhakti Fest, the nation's pre-eminent Yoga and Chant Festival in Joshua Tree, CA Sept 6-9.

After playing in Rabbi Andrew Hahn’s Kirtan Rabbi band on the night of the rapture last May (which was also the Jewish holiday of Lag B'Omer), Robert Oakes, a bass player well known at Kripalu and other yoga venues, wrote on Facebook:

“Spent the supposed rapture in a Congregational church playing Hebrew chants in a Hindu style led by a Rabbi for a Jewish community. I witnessed a community of people using music and religious ritual in order to bond, celebrate, have catharsis and get in touch with something soulful inside. This was not about wishing for the end of the world - it was about celebrating life.”

Now Rabbi Andrew Hahn, aka the Kirtan Rabbi, puts on another yarmulke of paradox and cross-millenial out-reach. For the third straight year, he goes as the only Rabbi to the Hin-hyphen (as in Hindu-ish) Sanskrit chanting world of Bhakti Fest. This time they’re not calling for the rapture; nor, will it be a Jewish holiday. But Rabbi Hahn will bring pre-Sabbath Hebrew yogic chanting to a crowd who will spend most of the weekend chanting Om to Kirtan Rabbi’s Shalom.

Kirtan is a form of call-and-response chant developed in India to heighten participation and ecstatic communion with the divine. Hebrew Kirtan’s distinguishing feature is its use of this technology with short, sacred phrases from the Jewish tradition treated as powerful, universal mantras.

For Rabbi Hahn, “Bhakti Fest allows me to broaden the idea of a congregation. Alongside the swamis and other kirtan artists, I find that I can show just how beautifully Jewish wisdom stands side by side with the other great traditions and holds its own.”

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