For more than a half century, a raw and world-weary Leonard Cohen led us along the tightrope he danced between the sacred and the profane in his quest for redemption. As he sang about his fears for a fractured universe, the flimsiness of human attachment and the constraints on freedom, his sensibility was unmistakable, his work laced with characters he’d discovered in Hebrew school, with memories of Jewish sorrow and with ancient prayers to which he gave new melody, new life.
If King David was the bard of biblical Judaism, Cohen was his latter-day analog, a singer/songwriter/poet who laid tefillin daily while writing his poignant yet bitter lament “Hallelujah,” who studied Talmud while creating songs about sex and lit Chanukah candles from his monk’s cell in a Buddhist monastery as he tried, in his way, to be free. “Hineini,” he chanted at the end of the title song on his final album, released weeks before his death. “Here I am,” the response Abraham gave God when called to sacrifice his son Isaac.
To mark the anniversary of Leonard Cohen’s passing, The Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center is celebrating his Jewish roots with a discussion of the religious paradoxes in his work and life with Marcia Pally, author of the new book From This Broken Hill I Sing to You. Dr. Pally, who teaches at NYU, Fordham University and Humboldt University, has written three prior books on theology, sacrifice and American evangelism.
She will be in conversation with Rabbi Mordecai Finley and Dr. Moshe Halbertal.
Dr. Finley, Leonard Cohen’s rabbi, co-founded Ohr HaTorah Synagogue in Los Angeles, where he currently serves. He is the former provost of the Academy of Jewish Religion.
An Israeli philosopher and writer, Dr. Halbertal currently teaches both at the Hebrew University and at NYU and is the author of 12 books.