“The Hidden One: Jewish Mystical Songs,” two years in the making, is a recording which contains songs meant to take the singer and listener to realms beyond the five senses, into deeper and deeper levels of “inner space,” into greater and greater depths of consciousness.
Great care and expense were put forth to create the 24-page booklet that accompanies the CD. We hope that listeners will avail themselves of this booklet, with its contemplative artwork by painter Michael Sgan-Cohen that so wonderfully expresses the underlying themes of the recording, with its important notes regarding each track, and with all of the songs’ Hebrew, Aramaic, and Yiddish lyrics provided in both English translation and in transliteration. The booklet gives an added dimension to the overall experience of this powerful music.
The term “mysticism” implies an experiential spirituality, one that is beyond thought, but one that uses thought to reach extremely imaginative and intuitive levels of the human mind and heart.
The CD contains 18 songs (total running time: 75:42) which emphasize different stages of this inner journey, and is based upon the “five souls” model taught by the Jewish mystical tradition. The model includes journeying through subtle levels of so-called “materiality,” diving into the hidden love within all of our hearts for our Ultimate Source, moving toward an apprehension of a “Mind behind the mind,” and going further “up” into a fourth level, a “transpersonal” level, where the image of the same moonlight being reflected in millions of bodies of water is used to describe the “Higher Mind” that we all share – a Consciousness that is “impersonal,” or one that may be felt as a “transcendent subject.” Finally, a fifth level of the soul is envisioned as actually being “outside” of the individual, but which is accessible to the person whose receptivity has reached a highly refined level.
To use music to connect with, identify, distinguish, and ultimately live from these five levels is a great gift to the human being. It is the intent of the songs on this recording to be effective vehicles for such an evolution of consciousness.
From the inside of the digipak:
“At the centre of each human being, each animal, each plant, each cell, and each atom, there is a complete stillness. A seemingly empty stillness, but one which contains the divine energies and the divine idea for that thing.” – Paul Brunton
“It is particularly though song that a soul can ascend to its root on high and the Source from which it was hewn.” – Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch
From the back of the digipak:
"Vocalist and Cantor Richard Kaplan is accompanied by an ensemble of stellar musicians."
A little on the songs …
1. Leshem Yikhud – several chanted “intentions” - one of bringing the highest Consciousness “down” into every thought, word and deed, another of accepting upon oneself the blessing of loving one’s fellow human being as oneself. It is a practice of being “above” and “below” at the same time, and increasingly at all times.
2. Ani Nikhna – a song to help one overcome the tyranny of the ego and move toward the enthroning of one’s soul.
3. Zikhrekha – a sacred dance of the remembrance of The Ultimate Source of the All.
4. Barkhi Nafshi – a chant to poetry from the remarkable Psalm 104, which contains the
mind-stretching verse “You wear light like a garment.” And what is “IT” that wears light like a garment?
5. Hakhanah Niggun – a song to sing before beginning one’s spiritual work, to achieve a humble state of heart and mind and remember the immensity and infinite depths of the Overself or “soul.”
6, A Dudele – a song of the radical immanence of Infinite Mind, even amidst mild or, forbid and forfend, immense adversity and suffering. With hammer dulcimer maestro Stuart Brotman.
7. A Sacred Song by Reb Nachman of Breslov – a wordless melody to take one into subtle levels of body, emotion, thought, and spirit.
8. Sim Shalom – a heartfelt Hasidic calling out for peace, life, compassion, and forgiveness. Accompanied by the exquisite clarinetist Sheldon Brown.
9. Atah, Atah, Atah – an adventure in addressing THE “Second Person” – You! The song contains an wonderfully creative "Kabbalistic rap" toward the middle of the track.
10. Yedid Nefesh – one of the greatest Jewish devotional songs of love, of bhakti.
11. Takhanun – a song for contemplating and experiencing “missing the mark.” Arranged for clarinet quintet!
12. Memaley Kol Almin – a Mongolian shamanic song in Aramaic about the “energy” and “life force” that fills all “worlds,” inner and outer, "material" and utterly subtle.
13. A Sabbath Song by Reb Aharon of Karlin – a melody for a day of “the long breath” and the parasympathetic nervous system; a day for “organic time,” not “commodity time.”
14. Adir Vena’or – a Turkish chant of cosmic splendor, accompanied by arguably Israel’s greatest “ney” (end-blown cane flute) player, Amir Shahasar.
15. Traversing the Five Souls – a chant to help the devotee contact different varieties of Consciousness within and without.
16. Se’u Minkhah – a song of self-sacrifice; a song “for the sake of Heaven.” Features a stunningly beautiful violin performance by maestro Jeremy Cohen.
17. A Melody for Leaving the Body – the panorama of an entire lifetime's journey encoded into a poignant song without words.
18. Birkat Kohanim – perhaps the deepest blessing that one could give to another, or that one could receive from another.
THE HIDDEN ONE (HANE'ELAM): JEWISH MYSTICAL SONGS
by Richard Kaplan, Five Souls Music, 2009
TIKKUN Magazine, January/February 2010
Review by Rabbi Jonathan Seidel Phd
"Richard Kaplan’s new CD The Hidden One (Hane’elam): Jewish Mystical Songs presents a powerfully evocative musical dance between the “hidden” and the “revealed,” as heard in poignant, immediately haunting silences and in the sparse, understated nigunim (melodies without words), found in subtle doses throughout the album.
Vocalist and cantor Kaplan, accompanied by an ensemble of stellar musicians and singers,
has created a prayerful gem of a CD that I believe (as one who deeply resonates with Sephardic and Hasidic music) will become a classic. It’s as if he’s channeling the primordial music of a barely known, esoteric kabbalistic sect, situated somewhere in the spaces
between Haim ben Attar (the famous Sephardic mystic who influenced the birth of Hasidism)
and the Ba’al Shem Tov. I felt I had somehow heard this music before, perhaps
in a previous gilgul (incarnation), when we were engaged with a paradigm-shifting
To devotees of Jewish music, this CD is a love song, sung with and without words, sung in Hebrew and Aramaic from the classic liturgy and Zohar, or sung to the words of traditional and newly composed piyutim (para-liturgical sacred poetry). It is a love song addressed to “You,” the very immanent and personal Divinity which so often remains hidden when we create rigid and imaginary boundaries which rob us of the mystical encounter. The Hasidic/Sufi trajectory present in these recordings beautifully expresses this intimacy with the Divine, which as the Qur'an has it, is “as close as our jugular veins” or as accessible as the memory of a beloved departed bubbe or nona (Yiddish and Ladino for “grandmother”). Kaplan is remarkably in touch with this most subtle of proximities.
Those who know Kaplan’s previous CDs (Tuning The Soul and Life of the Worlds) are familiar with his uncanny ability—shared with musical and poetic luminaries such as Israel Najara of the 16th century—to marry melodies from non-Jewish locales (even Mongolia, in this recording!) with Jewish mystical poetry. He also creates new Latvian/Lithuanian-influenced tunes for pouring out the heart, and performs a stunning Eastern European wordless song meant to accompany the dying process. The CD reconnects me to my ancient Ashkenazic roots while expanding upon them with several exquisite “neo-Hasidic” musical creations composed by Kaplan.
And be prepared for a few tracks that reflect the mournful pathos and longing of the Diaspora experience (perhaps ultimately best understood as a universal state of profound spiritual disconnection). You might cry a little - OK! I however actually find this “melancholy”
(or better yet, “deep soulfulness”) very appealing.
From a little known nigun of Reb Nachman of Breslov, to melodies preserved by the modern musical adept Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, to Turkish, Moroccan, and Spanish chants, Cantor Kaplan has produced an array of quietly ecstatic songs and original compositions that give life to the term “Jewish Renewal”. Kaplan’s jazzy riffs, supported by ney (cane flute),
‘ud (lute), tar (frame drum), cimbalom (hammer dulcimer) and other seemingly incongruous instrumentation, are set to revelatory and inspiring verses that send this writer right into the lap—or before the throne, as it were—of the Mystery of Mysteries. It is a very cool album with a great aural warmth, clearly derived from the embers of the Kabbalah’s overriding intention of tikkun. If you are searching for a collection of songs with which to focus your meditation and Jewish contemplative life, this is truly it!"
JUF News Chicago, September 2009
Review by Paul Wieder
“Kabbalah has become the latest celebrity fad, but for centuries the authentic Kabbalah
has been a source of philosophy, prayer, and song for Jews. West Coast cantor Richard Kaplan adheres to the 'old school' of Kabbalah, presenting 18 (of course) songs from the Kabbalistic tradition. They come from across generations and around the Jewish world, but all are sublimated by Kaplan’s yearning baritone and elegant piano playing. The arrangements are meditative and minimal, adding only the percussion, strings, or winds of the country of the song’s origin, leaving room for the listeners to fill in the spaces themselves. Full lyrics and notes are provided, and Kaplan even sings some of the songs in English. Kaplan’s third release solidifies his reputation as the best American interpreter of Jewish spiritual and world music."