Songs for a broken world

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He spent several years as a Buddhist monk and some of his most powerful songs are rooted in ancient Biblical or Kabbalistic sources. Benedictine monk and Jewish writer discuss musician and poet who saw the Jewish and Christian religions as each containing the essence of the other

“You can’t miss it,” said the old man in the flower shop in the center of Montreal’s Jewish cemetery. Moments later, I was on my knees at Leonard Cohen’s grave, six months after his death on November 7, 2016. We are now approaching the fifth anniversary of his death. This is marked by the publication of a new book on him by Harry Freedman, a Jewish writer who interprets the history and culture of his people for British audiences. In an hour of conversation, he and I discussed Leonard Cohen and his legacy.

The singer brought us together, Jews and Christians, and we noticed his ability to transcend confessional divides. “Beliefs,” said Freedman, “sit in silos and you don’t look from silo to silo. ”

It follows that there is a barrier, not necessarily hostile, between them and “one of the things Leonard Cohen did so well was to see Judaism and Christianity as a continuum.” The title song of the album he released just 17 days before his death, “You Want It Darker”, is one example: your holy name ‘- and then he turns him into Jesus …’ Vilified and crucified ‘. In “Story of Isaac,” from his second album, Songs from a Room, Freedman pointed out, “It effectively begins by giving you a rework of the Genesis story where Abraham takes Isaac up the mountain and it ends with the Crucifixion and it’s all one story.

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