RAP- PENTANCE: A Hip-Hop "Praylist" for Rosh HaShanah

September 6, 2018Rabbi 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 the music that soundtracks my life be harnessed for religious practice?”

This summer, as I prepared for Rosh HaShanah, I began dreaming about an alternative High Holiday experience – a musical journey that would tap into ancient liturgical themes and refract them through the lens of hip-hop. Kind of like Rosh HaShanah: The Remix.

As I prepared to lead services, I realized that the perfect liturgical analog for this new experience was the shofar (ram’s horn) service. The shofar’s blast is a spiritual alarm clock that cries our souls awake and demands a reckoning with our past year. We hear the shofar during a particular section of liturgy that is broken into three parts: malchuyot (sovereignty), zichronot (remembrance), and shofarot (literally, shofars or poetically, redemption).

Our journey through music has those same three stops, mirroring the arc of Rosh HaShanah liturgy in which we sound the Shofar. The only difference? Our shofar is hip-hop. Like the sound of the shofar, hip-hop can shake us awake and demand an honest assessment of ourselves.

I have long found hip-hop to be the music of my heart, and RAP-PENTANCE: The Praylist is a reflection of that deep love. 

I’d be honored if you could find 45 minutes to try out this new experiment with me. I hope that RAP-PENTANCE will help you tap deep into your soul and offer an opportunity for reflection, honest assessment, and loving agitation.

Shanah tovah u’metukah, to a sweet & happy new year!

Learn more about RAP-PENTANCE and listen to the full playlist, then listen to these High Holiday playlists for adults and families with children.

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