Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

Speak, Leonard

Now, I heard there was a secret chord…

Print Email

This week’s parasha tells us about the Kohanim, or priests, the chosen few who kept the temple sacred and the spirit of the nation pure. We don’t have too many of them hanging around anymore, but we’re very fortunate to have one, who is currently back among us, touring our towns and telling the truth. Here he is, in his own words:

They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom, for trying to change the system from within.

It’s hard to hold the hand of anyone who is reaching for the sky just to surrender.

I forget to pray for the angels, and then the angels forget to pray for us.

I see the Ghost of Culture, with numbers on his wrist, salute some new conclusion which all of us have missed. I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch. He said to me, “You must not ask for so much.”
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door, she cried to me, “Hey, why not ask for more?”

And if you call me brother now, forgive me if I inquire, “Just according to whose plan?” When it all comes down to dust, I will kill you if I must, I will help you if I can. If it be your will, 
if there is a choice, let the rivers fill, let the hills rejoice. Let your mercy spill on all these burning hearts in hell, if it be your will to make us well.

I know the burden’s heavy, as you bear it through the night. Some people say it’s empty, but that doesn’t mean it’s light. You told me again you preferred handsome men, but for me you would make an exception. And clenching your fist for the ones like us, who are oppressed by the figures of beauty, you fixed yourself, you said, “Well never mind, we are ugly but we have the music.”

Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen

And I’ll dance with you in Vienna, I’ll be wearing a river’s disguise. The hyacinth wild on my shoulder,
 my mouth on the dew of your thighs. And I’ll bury my soul in a scrapbook, with the photographs there, and the moss, 
and I’ll yield to the flood of your beauty, my cheap violin and my cross. And you’ll carry me down on your dancing,
to the pools that you lift on your wrist.
 Oh my love, oh my love, take this waltz, take this waltz. It’s yours now. It’s all that there is.

Now, I’ve heard there was a secret chord, that David played, and it pleased the Lord, but you don’t really care for music, do you? So ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. Everybody knows.

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking. 
Everybody knows that the captain lied. Everybody got this broken feeling, 
like their father or their dog just died. And everybody knows that it’s now or never, everybody knows that it’s me or you, and everybody knows that you live forever, ah, when you’ve done a line or two. Everybody knows the deal is rotten, Old Black Joe’s still pickin’ cotton 
for your ribbons and bows, and everybody knows.

Now you can say that I’ve grown bitter, but of this you may be sure: The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor, and there’s a mighty judgment coming, but I may be wrong. Well, my friends are gone, and my hair is grey, I ache in the places where I used to play, and I’m crazy for love—but I’m not coming on.

You don’t know me from the wind. You never will, you never did: I’m the little Jew who wrote the Bible.

I’ve seen the nations rise and fall, I’ve heard their stories, heard them all, 
but love’s the only engine of survival. Your servant here, he has been told to say it clear, to say it cold: 
It’s over, it ain’t going 
any further. And now the wheels of heaven stop. You feel the devil’s riding crop.

Get ready for the future: it is murder.

For more of the priestly wisdom of the great Cohen, visit

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

obviously like your web site however you need to check the spelling on several of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling issues and I find it very troublesome to tell the reality on the other hand I will certainly come back again.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Speak, Leonard

Now, I heard there was a secret chord…

More on Tablet:

Kerry Links Rise of ISIS With Failed Peace Talks

By Lee Smith — Secretary of State: ‘I see a lot of heads nodding’