Last week we marveled over the many allusions to Yeshua in Leonard Cohen’s song lyrics, so many more than those I referenced from his last album (check out “Suzanne”). Since his passing I have been amazed at the way Jewish mainstream spokesmen have described this amazing man in numerous obituaries and in media generally.
Clearly Leonard Cohen cannot be boxed into a neat sound bite regarding his religious beliefs, so I won’t make the same mistake I see in the media. He was born Jewish, raised Jewish, and embraced Judaism at some level. He also was a religious seeker, a Jewbu perhaps simultaneously with his more mainstream Jewish beliefs. Based on his many lyrics about Yeshua (the point I was struck with last week), he also was intrigued by Yeshua.
So, Jewish community, how do you deal with that? I’m not asking you to say he believed in Yeshua. But I’m asking for a little truthful reporting, or is that too scary?!
I listened to a YouTube drash by Chief Rabbi Emeritus of the UK Jonathan Sacks, Parsha Vayera, on Leonard Cohen’s “You Want it Darker”, which literally goes line by line through the song and spends a considerable amount of time on the Kaddish reference of the first line of the chorus . . .
“Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name”
yet skips the very next line . .
“Vilified, crucified, in the human frame. . . ”
Granted there are other lines in the song which also suggest Yeshua to me, but that could be my filter, yet how else to interpret this one?! And how can one analyze in depth the first line and skip over the continuation of that thought flowing into the very next line of the song?!
In the use of “Hineni”, he discusses the binding of Isaac and the conflating of two figures, Abraham and Isaac, the sacrificer and the one to be sacrificed, yet he can’t see, or chooses not to discuss, the Yeshua allusions. I don’t think crucifixion was around in the time of Abraham?! Are we conveniently conflating only what is comfortable to analyze?! He reasserts how Jewish Leonard Cohen was, which I am not denying, but talk about tunnel vision?
Every obituary I saw, including the one in our own “The Jewish Advocate”, and especially in Jewish publications, re-asserted the Jewishness of Leonard Cohen. These writings and reports also at least honored reality enough to mention his participation in Buddhism. Yet none dared to even suggest his intrigue with Yeshua, even as an extraordinary man, for to do so is just too scary of a door for mainstream Jewish media, or high ranking rabbis, to open.
Leonard Cohen was a man among men, one not afraid to be open to challenging thoughts, including diverse religious teachings. He was willing to live the struggle rather than to hide from it, even concerning thoughts on Yeshua.
I am thankful on this Thanksgiving Day to Leonard Cohen for reminding me of the Jewish heart that seeks to understand. May we never give up the struggle, well at least until that day when to do so is no longer necessary.