Jan 2017 - Leonard Cohen Part 1

This is the first in a 2-part series devoted to the life and works of Leonard Cohen, a topic which some of you requested when I spoke about him recently and taught some of his songs.  We lost a sage of our era with his recent passing.  His absence has prompted me and so many others to revisit his words and to absorb his wisdom. 
Leonard Cohen was a prophet of brokenness, a seeker of the light who did not ignore the inherent frailties of the human condition.  In my column last month I quoted his “Anthem,” about how the cracks/imperfections let the light in. 
Cohen’s words echo the teachings of Jewish mysticism.  The Kabbalists of the 16th century explained the brokenness of our world with the story of its origins.  Accordingly, when God attempted to create our world, God poured infinite Divine light into the vessel of creation, but it was impossible to contain all that light.  This caused the vessel to crack, and while much of the light escaped and rejoined the Divine source, much also remained hidden in the shards of our broken world.
Our task is to find the countless sparks of Divine light (as I spoke about in December in my talk on Chanukah and sparks of holy light).  As we do this, we are participating in tikun olam, repairing the world. 
As Cohen taught us in his song “Suzanne,” we need to “look among the garbage and the flowers,” to find the holy sparks of light.  They can be anywhere.  As we enter the secular new year of 2017, that is our task!
More next month about Leonard Cohen.