Shalom Chaveirim/Dear Friends:
Many of you know of my love of Leonard Cohen, so when he died a few weeks ago I, and millions around the world, were saddened by his passing. He left a great legacy of poetry and music, much of it very Jewish in character, particularly his final album, You Want it Darker.
Leonard Cohen & Facing the Darkness.
There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.
Leonard Cohen has been on my mind a lot lately, as we approach the darkest time of year. Maybe it’s because Cohen was a man who seemed most at home in the dark and brokenness of this world. I first encountered him as a young girl in the back seat of a blue Volvo station wagon, on our annual family pilgrimage down to visit my Bubbie and Zaidie in Miami. In those pre-iPad and earbud days, whatever we did on that drive down, we did together: counting license plates, listening to stories and yes, singing together. And then, there was always a point in the late night drive when my father would sing to us. A Leonard Cohen fan, he would sing of Suzanne, and how “she takes you down to her place by the river”. As he went on to describe “she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China,” I had an image in my young mind of a canoe filled with clementines.
I next met Cohen as an angsty adolescent reading his poetry. I discovered a poet who reminded us that “there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”. The world might be deeply imperfect, but that didn’t mean it was bad. It’s this clarity that has me thinking about a man, whose grave is marked Eliezer HaCohen, and how he might help us to encounter the dark that meets us now – in the world, our lives and as we draw towards Hanukkah.