By Marcie Rubel
Our beloved Jewish chanting and meditation teacher, Miriam Batia Smolover will be releasing her new CD The Source of the Sound. It is a compilation of chants designed to inspire and soothe your spirit. The CD project includes a manual to guide people interested in creating their own local chanting meditation group. Please join us in celebrating the release of The Source of the Sound in a combination concert, performance, chanting and meditating experience and party at Chochmat HaLev, May 12, 8 p.m. For more information about the CD, you can write Miriam at firstname.lastname@example.org. In April, you can visit www.thesourceofthesound.com.
Miriam has been leading the Kehilla-sponsored Kol HaLev/Voice of the Heart chanting meditation group for 20 years. Miriam leads chants that she has composed as well as from other sources, and guides a meditation practice in the monthly group. She brings in teachings from Jewish mysticism, and offers ways to apply them to one’s personal life. Each session includes time for checking in, setting a kavanah/personal intention, a healing circle, and closing reflection. The group celebrates the seasons & Jewish holidays through chanting. Miriam’s been with this group through good times and bad. After 9/11, she responded by creating a chanting sheet called “Chants Following a Disaster.” After the November 2016 election, she created a session around “Chants for Scary Times.” Kol HaLev meets usually on the second Sunday of the month, from 10am to 12 pm, in North Berkeley. Kitty Kameon is the group administrator and can be contacted at email@example.com or 510-529-5442.
Miriam grew up in musical family, where they would sing Shabbat prayers in 4 and 5 part harmony. Two of her uncles were cantors. Miriam was a graduate of the Chochmat HaLev Jewish Spiritual Leadership Program, Jewish Meditation Instructor Training one-year program, and received certification as a Morah L’Hitbodidut/Jewish Meditation Teacher through Chochmat’s three-year Teacher’s Certification Program (TCP). She went on to direct the second cohort of the TCP.
Group members have shared such thoughts and feelings as, “I felt so much healing from this group,” “During the meditations for ‘Chants of Spring,’ I felt my soul emerging and growing,” “I had felt distant from the Divine, and now I feel much closer,” and “This group is my Passover preparation.” One member elaborated: “I feel how connected and supported this group makes me feel. The group is always there. There’s something grounding about how we celebrate the seasons and the holidays every year. I love how Miriam integrates abstract spiritual ideas with something personal, how she offers ways of coping and being with difficult times.”
Rabbi Rosalind Glazer started the group in 1996. At the time, Rosalind was Kehilla’s cantorial soloist. She wrote, “The growing popularity of chanting among contemporary Jews is a fascinating phenomenon. Part of the appeal is that the chants offer new and exciting tunes, bringing a revitalizing and energizing element to prayers whose old melodies have grown stale…The active ecstatic outpouring balanced with an internal receptive calm provides the community of worshippers with a respectful blend of communal and individual ‘prayer’.” When Rosalind went off to rabbinical school in 1998, she asked Miriam to take over leading the group.
Miriam says, “Many of us traveling a conscious spiritual path are filled with longings and questions. We want to navigate our daily life with guidance from our spiritual Center. Chanting creates a doorway through which our consciousness can travel into the realm of Spirit. Meditating in this space can be profound, opening us to the hopes and fears in our hearts. Chanting and meditating in a group of people with similar kavanot/intentions is a powerful, tender way to both lighten and deepen our journey.”