Friday, March 9, 2018

Coming Home to Kirtan

What does it mean to be a Jew?

Can one deny its fundamental tenants and still find refuge in its traditions and stories?

Growing up, I was taught that being Jewish was more than just my religious observance or my cultural identity. It was to fill the totality of my being, both physically and spiritually. (0) For a majority of my life, I welcomed that outlook gladly.

But what was once the most obvious description of how I could label myself, became the center of one my deepest inner struggles.

I still continue to value many aspects of my religious upbringing. For example: I have fallen in love with the concept of Shabbos (1). Particularly Herschel’s notion of it being a ‘Sanctuary of Time’ (2). Allocating a part of our lives to exist in a state of being over a state of doing. But what if I practice Shabbos on Tuesday – is it no longer Shabbos?

I don’t know. I don’t know if I will ever know. I like not knowing.

Point is, I have not posed my question to offer my own explanation, nor do I have any particular desire to hear the answers of others. Rather, I would like to try and share what came out as consequence. What the question itself has taught me.

Nigunim. “A Nigun in a is a form of Jewish religious song or tune sung by groups. Nigunim are especially central to worship in Hasidic Judaism, which evolved its own structured, soulful forms to reflect the mystical joy of intense prayer (5)”.They are my Adriane’s (6) thread, binding me to a world I feared I lost behind. They continue to speak to the depths of my being, igniting my heart to the great Unknown. They were the one element of my old life that stayed with me, pure and unaltered. I have used them as an anchor to keep me grounded many times over.

Click here to listen to Niggun Hachana

And then I found Kirtan. Kirtan is a genre of religious performance arts, connoting a musical form of narration or shared recitation, particularly of spiritual or religious ideas. (7) Although Kirtan originated in the 6th century by Hindu Alvars and Nayanars (8), my first experience was with fellow Millennials in my Yoga Studio in Bali. As much as anticipated the lack of authenticity, both with the surroundings and with my lack of familiarity, I was surprised by how familiar it was.

To better understand my point of view, I want to share a part of the ceremony that I recorded. I do not have a video of the ceremony, somewhat intentionally. But if you can, try to listen to the following recording eyes closed. See if, and where, it speaks to you.

I traveled half way around the world, but all I really did was trade one farbrengen (9) for another. One group of passionate believers with another. I traded one world for another and still found myself at home.

I used to think that I found myself in Nigunim. However, a more apt description would be to say that I lost myself in Nigunim.

There is a known aphorism that, “all religions are deep down saying the same thing.” Although I disagree with that maxim, I find that the sentiment people are trying to describe has a truth. That even though the medium may be different, spiritual experience is one and the same. Just as we all express affection in our own ways yet Love in universal. Transcendence is Singular.

Kirtan wasn’t a part of my family history. It wasn’t passed down to me. But it spoke to me nonetheless.

I lost myself in Kirtan with the same intensity as I did with Nigunim.  

Ultimately, does it really make a difference if it was a Kirtan or a Nigun?

Did it really matter that the Kirtan ceremony wasn’t as authentic as possible?

So too:
Is Shabbos any less Shabbos if it goes by any other name?

Is it still Shabbos if it doesn’t go by any name?

If labeling myself Jewish has as much value as I give to the idea of being Jewish - I ask – what does it mean to be a Jew?

To get a better appreciation of Kirtan, there is a great video on Youtube

Friday, January 19, 2018


I can't tell you I love you
But not out of choice
Every time I try to scream
I happen to lose my voice

I'm drowning in denial
Convinced I'm floating on hot air
Empty words on empty mouths
No matter how much I care

I can tell you what I ate for breakfast
Or when depression hit me last
But sharing birthday candle wishes
Is a relic of the past

I know you share my struggle
I see it in your eyes
For We all offer scripted eulogies
When something precious dies

Love is universal
Yet we all sadly stand alone
Building roads and bridges
But nowhere to call home.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Creating consistency within Chaos


I am currently at the beginning stages of creating my own website, where all my content will be connected, but until that happens, I will continue to use this space to update all those who are interested in following my travels.

If you are interested in keeping updated, follow this blog and get informed every time I post, or write any updates.

As usual by any story, the backstory helps put everything into context. So this initial post will be more of the backstory to what I am doing and what this blog will be about.

About a year ago, entering my third and final year of my bachelors, I started thinking about promising prospects/careers after I graduate. Looking around, and speaking to friends and alums, I was dismayed by a reoccurring mindset of compliance. Many people I spoke to were more interested in what job they could find, instead of what job they wanted. Spending three/four years studying in Computer Science, you get a a familiarity with a wide range of subjects, and have the ability to find an area that you enjoy and excel in. And yet, many people I met just took the first job they could salvage.

With money being the ends and not the means, personal choice and preference were disregarded for consistency and complacency.

My intentions here are not to devalue any particular person’s life decisions, but I felt I didn’t want to end up the same way.

And yet, when I asked myself what I was truly interested in – I came up empty. I didn’t know. I don’t know. I never really asked myself that question seriously before. I never gave myself the time or energy to explore the question.

So I decided that instead of looking straight for a job, I would spend time researching areas that could interest me.

To allow myself to ask one fundamental question: What do I want?

Once I established that as my objective for the year, I had to figure out which environment would be the conducive for such an investigation. For although the question is primarily focused around work and income, the intention extends to everything in my life. To just SLOW DOWN, breathe, and see where I stood after all the dust settled.

To do that – I decided to spend the year as a digital nomad.

In short, it means that I work while traveling.

At that is how I ended up here right now, in a coffee shop in Chang Mai, Thailand, nursing a hangover from a night-out from a Jazz Bar I found last night.

Current Workspace

As such, this blog will be a record of what I experience living on the road, the adventures between the work, and anything else I find worth sharing.

Join me – in person or through the blog.