Rabbi Shefa Gold thought she was inventing the practice of Hebrew chant back in the 1980s. Before entering rabbinical school late in that decade she had been a musician fascinated by the power of music to open hearts and bring listeners to a place of connection.
That love for music was an easy gateway for her to open the prayer book, take each sacred phrase, and “explore it in depth until its magic was unlocked through the practice of chant,” she says. Gold began training others in chanting, who would then teach more people, which brought new converts to the practice.
On one occasion, she recalls, “I was practicing chant with a group and a very old man was there. Tears were running down his cheeks. He told me that he remembered the Rebbe doing this in Europe before World War II. That’s when I realized that Hebrew chant is not a new practice; I’m simply revitalizing it.”
Gold now brings this knowledge of Hebrew chanting to The Magic of Hebrew Chant: Healing the Spirit, Transforming the Mind, Deepening Love (Jewish Lights, July), her first book on the topic. She also is the author of Torah Journeys: The Inner Path to the Promised Land (Ben Yehuda Press, 2006) and In the Fever of Love: An Illumination of the Song of Songs (Ben Yehuda Press, 2008).
The Magic of Hebrew Chant introduces the fundamentals and secrets of chant, as well as its many uses in healing, ritual, meditation, and prayer. Gold includes more than a hundred musical notations for her most popular chants. The book can be used individually or in groups, by both new and experienced chanters.
“I want to study the sacred text with mind and heart, and with the body as well,” says Gold. “Chant is very much a heart practice, a devotional practice. I’ve been doing it for many years because it’s my way in. I love it so much.”
Traveling about half the year doing retreats and seminars and teaching groups the power of Hebrew chant--as well as training chant leaders in Kol Zimra, a two-year program for rabbis, cantors, and lay leaders--is"my rabbinate,” Gold says. She has taught throughout the United States and in Europe, South America, Israel, and Australia. She lives in New Mexico and is director of C-DEEP: The Center for Devotional, Energy, and Ecstatic Practice.
“Hebrew chant works for people of different religions. Non-Jewish people who chant in Hebrew find it transformative and healing. People can enter in and receive its gifts immediately,” Gold says.