We all live with a natural rhythm, the pulse of a heartbeat. The heart is a symbol of life on Earth. Rhythm is an experience of the whole person – mind, heart, body, and soul. In a drum circle, seekers create a community for a sense of peace, harmony with others, and unity. The community is sharing ideas and traditions. The drum circle encourages all who want to share the beat. In the repetition, drummers unite in sharing our ‘outer self” with others while we seek to touch the sacred with our ‘inner self’. The rhythm becomes a prayer.

The drum (Hebrew-tof) mentioned seventeen times in biblical text is commonly mistranslated as “tambourine” or “timbrel.” The jingly instrument we know as a tambourine today did not come into existence until the Roman period, according to archaeologists and biblical scholars. The instrument referred to is a large frame drum, about twelve to twenty-two inches across its face. It was most often played by women in both secular and religious contexts.The timbrel may have been excluded from the Temple instruments because of its great popularity with the Canaanite fertility cults. It was associated with merrymaking and processions (Gen. 31:27). Women, such as Miriam (Exodus 15:20-21) played this drum which was in use at least until the period of Babylonian captivity, and possibly beyond.

Drumming connects us with our roots. The sound of drumming, in combination with the blowing of hollow rams’ horns (shofar), cymbals, and dancing were among the earliest ways our spiritual ancestors worshiped God. When David encouraged the Israelites to praise God, he said, “Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp (Psalm 149:3).”

Aside from Drumming, chanting is another way our ancestors and us connect in a spiritual way. One of the leaders in the field is Rabbi Shefa Gold. She teaches workshops and retreats on the theory and art of Chanting, Devotional Healing, Spiritual Community Building, Meditation, and trains Chant Leaders. You can try some of her heart centered chants here.

Shefa notes: “The highest Jewish ideal is attaining a state of constant D’vekut, an uninterrupted awareness of God’s Presence, even as we are immersed in the experience of this precious world. My addictions and cravings, my doubts, fears and worries, my plans and regrets often pull me away from that awareness- that D’vekut.

This practice is a vow, a commitment, and a re-dedication to the possibility of D’vekut. I chant directly to God, the great underlying and encompassing Mystery… and through my bold address, I strengthen my commitment to turn again and again towards the Divine Expanse.