RAP-ENTANCE: A Soul-Opening Experience for the High Holidays

September 1, 2020Rabbi Alex Kress

Long before I became a rabbi, I was a DJ and a hip-hop-head. Music always scored my life, and for years I've wondered, "How can that music be harnessed for religious practice? How might John Legend or Billie Holiday elevate me spiritually and open channels of empathy?”

In 2018, I began concocting an alternative High Holiday experience – an audible journey that would tap into ancient liturgical themes and refract them through the lens of music. I found a liturgical analog along the contours of the shofarshofarשׁוֹפָרRam’s horn most commonly blown throughout the month of Elul and during the High Holiday season. service, which serves as a spiritual alarm clock – a clarion call – that awakens our souls and demands a reckoning with our past year. RAP-ENTANCE was born.

Two years later, our world is on fire. We celebrate our holiest days apart due to a pandemic as our country comes to terms with four centuries of systemic racism that led to the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others just this year. It seemed fitting to create a sequel to RAP-ENTANCE this year, using themes of the Yom Kippur prayer book (machzormachzorמַחְזוֹר"Cycle;" High Holiday prayerbook; plural: machzorim. ) to confront racism, explore concepts of privilege, and stand up for racial justice.

In addition to the many High Holiday experiences available via livestreams, I hope RAP-ENTANCE can act as a soul-opening addendum or spiritual alternative to what you’re used to.

The project aims to rejuvenate our understanding of High Holiday themes and inject new channels of empathy, love, and reflection. Let the powerful beats reverberate through your body, echoing your own heartbeat. Let the words invigorate your spirit. Let the dance of rhythm and rhyme serve as a reminder; we are living, breathing, dynamic creatures capable of innovation, re-dedication, and change.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches, “If you see what needs to be repaired and how to repair it, then you have found a piece of the world that God has left for you to complete. But if you only see what is wrong and what is ugly in the world, then it is you yourself that needs repair.” Wherever you find yourself on this spectrum, I hope RAP-ENTANCE will help you tap deep into your soul and offer an opportunity for reflection, honest assessment, and loving agitation.

Tizku l’shanim rabot – be worthy of your years, and may they be many!

Learn more about RAP-ENTANCE and sign up for RAP-ENTANCE: LIVE.

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