Friday, November 11, 2016

Blessed by A Cohen Who Has Become Very Dark

Leonard Eliezer Cohen has died.

Admitting my age, my intellectual development coalesced in the mid-1960s, from the end of high school through to university studies.  Leonard Cohen was there.

I first heard "Suzanne" in the winter of 1968 when I went up to Montreal to visit the Betar group there (Dina Kolodny-Shalit, Mendy Shalit, etc.) but dropped off to see the three HaShomer HaTzair girls who were with me on Machon.  Of course, it was at their ken that the song was played

I have, still, I hope, his Spice-Box of Earth book of poetry.  I bought my son a book of his poems translated into Hebrew.

His records were heard by all our children.

My wife would use his "Hallelujah" in her English teaching curriculum.

I recently found this article on his Zohar references.

And I still read intensively:


Including this last interview with this


In recent years, he spent many Shabbat mornings and Monday evenings at Ohr HaTorah, a synagogue on Venice Boulevard, talking about Kabbalistic texts with the rabbi there, Mordecai Finley. Sometimes, on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Finley, who says that he considers Cohen “a great liturgical writer,” read from the pulpit passages from “Book of Mercy,” a 1984 collection of Cohen’s that is steeped in the Psalms. “I participated in all these investigations that engaged the imagination of my generation at that time,” Cohen has said. “I even danced and sang with the Hare Krishnas—no robe, I didn’t join them, but I was trying everything.”

To this day, Cohen reads deeply in a multivolume edition of the Zohar, the principal text of Jewish mysticism; the Hebrew Bible; and Buddhist texts. In our conversations, he mentioned the Gnostic Gospels, Lurianic Kabbalah, books of Hindu philosophy, Carl Jung’s “Answer to Job,” and Gershom Scholem’s biography of Sabbatai Sevi, a self-proclaimed Messiah of the seventeenth century. Cohen is also very much at home in the spiritual reaches of the Internet, and he listens to the lectures of Yakov Leib HaKohain, a Kabbalist who has converted, serially, to Islam, Catholicism, and Hinduism, and lives in the San Bernardino mountains 

and other snippets:

Cohen showed up in Israel [during the Yom Kippur War], hoping to replace someone who had been drafted. “I am committed to the survival of the Jewish people,” he told an interviewer at the time. He ended up performing, often many times a day, for the troops on the front.) 


and finally,


what is on Cohen’s mind now is family, friends, and the work at hand. “I’ve had a family to support, so there’s no sense of virtue attached to it,” he said. “I’ve never sold widely enough to be able to relax about money. I had two kids and their mother to support and my own life. So there was never an option of cutting out. Now it’s a habit. And there’s the element of time, which is powerful, with its incentive to finish up. Now I haven’t gotten near finishing up. I’ve finished up a few things. I don’t know how many other things I’ll be able to get to, because at this particular stage I experience deep fatigue. . . . There are times when I just have to lie down. I can’t play anymore, and my back goes fast also. Spiritual things, baruch Hashem”—thank God—“have fallen into place, for which I am deeply grateful.”

Cohen has unpublished poems to arrange, unfinished lyrics to finish and record or publish. He’s considering doing a book in which poems, like pages of the Talmud, are surrounded by passages of interpretation.

“The big change is the proximity to death,” he said. “I am a tidy kind of guy. I like to tie up the strings if I can. If I can’t, also, that’s O.K. But my natural thrust is to finish things that I’ve begun.”
and

“I know there’s a spiritual aspect to everybody’s life, whether they want to cop to it or not,” Cohen said. “It’s there, you can feel it in people—there’s some recognition that there is a reality that they cannot penetrate but which influences their mood and activity. So that’s operating. That activity at certain points of your day or night insists on a certain kind of response. Sometimes it’s just like: ‘You are losing too much weight, Leonard. You’re dying, but you don’t have to coƶperate enthusiastically with the process.’ Force yourself to have a sandwich.

“What I mean to say is that you hear the Bat Kol.” The divine voice. “You hear this other deep reality singing to you all the time, and much of the time you can’t decipher it. Even when I was healthy, I was sensitive to the process. At this stage of the game, I hear it saying, ‘Leonard, just get on with the things you have to do.’ 

^

1 comment:

Batya Medad said...

No, I did not use Halleluya, I used "Who by Fire?"

Blog carnivals are still alive, and this post is included in Shiloh Musings: Havel Havelim Jewish Blog Carnival