In 2004, Lorne Mallin launched a monthly event in Vancouver called “Chanting and Chocolate” at which participants share a passion for Jewish chanting and afterwards socialize over tea and chocolate brownies.
Mallin relocated to Ottawa earlier this year and brought Chanting and Chocolate with him. While the monthly program has continued in Vancouver, the Ottawa events take place on the last Monday of the month at Temple Israel from 7:30 until 9 pm under the aegis of the Temple Israel Adult Education Program. The sessions are egalitarian and men and women of all religious backgrounds are welcome.
Chanting and Chocolate combines two of Mallin’s passions: a love of sacred Hebrew chanting and a love of the Abayudaya Jewish community in Uganda. There is a suggested donation of $10 to attend the sessions and the proceeds are donated to the Abayudaya community to sponsor school fees for five orphans and provide sanitary pads for schoolgirls.
“It’s an internal transformation,” Mallin said of chanting, “through which I’m trying to keep the gates of righteousness open all the time, not just on Yom Kippur.
“The first time I heard the chants, I thought ‘this is beautiful.’ But, what amazed me the most was that they made my mind go quiet for some time, the ‘monkey in my head’ became silent.”
The chants are very short pieces of sacred texts from Prophets, Torah or prayers. They are easy to pick up quickly, “but they are full of kavana (dedication), with beautiful melodies, followed by minutes of personal chanting,” said Mallin.
Mallin writes some of the chants, others come from other sources and are in English, Hebrew or Luganda, the language of the Abayudaya. Mallin went to Uganda and lived and worked with the Abayudaya in 2009-2010.
Asked about the significance of chocolate to the evenings, Mallin explained, “One night somebody brought chocolate chip cookies and I noticed that all of a sudden, everybody stayed, talking and chatting, when the chanting was over. So I took it upon myself to bake the triple chocolate brownies using dark, semi-sweet and milk chocolate.”
The next Chanting and Chocolate session at Temple Israel is on Monday, July 31. Because the evening falls on Erev Tisha B’Av, the chocolate will be served before the chanting rather than after.