The Legacy Of Leonard Cohen’s 2009 Tel Aviv Priestly Blessing With Video Of The Event

blessingx

Birkat Kohanim Concludes Leonard Cohen’s Performance In Israel

The best video of the closing and blessings from the  Leonard Cohen Tel Aviv concert that offers a direct view of the onstage action rather than the telescreen projection became available on YouTube only yesterday.  Because many Cohencentric viewers have a special interest in this event, I am posting this video for its superior  audio and visual qualities although the concert took place nearly a week ago.

In addition, I want to take this opportunity to answer the questions that continue to arise about the history of the Priestly Blessing, why Leonard Cohen would use, in the words of one correspondent, an “official Jewish thing” to end the concert, and the meaning of the hand gesture that accompanied the blessing.

Besides, one of the life lessons I’ve finally learned is that one can always use an extra blessing.

The Priestly Blessing And Leonard Cohen

The Priestly Blessing, found in Numbers 6:24-26,  originates in the prayer to be used by Aaron and his sons for the blessing of the children of Israel. Leonard Cohen, because he is a descendant of Aaron (a Kohen or Cohen is  a  Jew who is in direct patrilineal descent from Aaron),  embodies that ancient authority to administer the Priestly Blessing.

Further, the level of observance and piety of a specific Kohen is irrelevant since he is not providing the blessing;  “he is merely serving as a conduit for G‑d’s blessings.”1

Many synagogues continue to use this prayer in their services. In Protestant churches, it has come to be known as The Benediction and often closes church services as a blessing upon the congregation. It is similarly used at weddings as a blessing upon the bride and groom.

In Tel Aviv, Leonard Cohen, recites the Blessing in Hebrew.

priestly-blessing1May the Lord bless you and protect you
May the Lord make His face shine upon you
and be gracious to you
May the Lord show you His favor and give you His peace

bircatCohanim

The Lifting Of The Hands

Birkat Kohanim is also known as “Nesi’at Kapayim,” the “lifting of the hands,” so named because of the Kohanim’s uplifted hands, through which the divine blessings flow.2

When performing the Priestly Blessing, the Kohanim stretch their arms and hands forward, holding their hands together palms-down with their fingers separated so there are 5 spaces: one space between the thumbs, a space between the thumb and first finger of each hand, and a space between the second and third finger of each hand.3  This forms the lattice through which, as described in the Talmud. referencing the verse in the Song of Songs (2:9), God peers.4

My beloved is like a gazelle or a young hart
Behold, he stands behind our wall
He looks in through the windows
Peering through the lattice

Shefa_Tal

Shefa Tal: These hands, as in the en:Priestly Blessing, are divided into twenty-eight sections, each containing a Hebrew letter. Twenty-eight, in Hebrew numbers, spells the word Koach = strength. At the bottom of the hand, the two letters on each hand combine to form יהוה, the name of God.

Leonard Cohen – Closing and Blessings
Tel Aviv: Sept 24, 2009
Video by PetSounds69

Credit Due Department: Shefa Tal diagram (public domain) from Library of Congress.

Other 2009 Leonard Cohen Tel Aviv Show Posts

To view other posts about this historic concert, go to 2009 Cohen Tel Aviv Show.

Note: Originally posted Sep 30, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
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  1. Naftali Silberberg, The Priestly Blessing, Chabad.org – Torah, Judaism and Jewish Info []
  2. Naftali Silberberg, The Priestly Blessing, Chabad.org – Torah, Judaism and Jewish Info []
  3. According to WikipediaThe positioning of the Kohen’s hands during the Priestly Blessing was Leonard Nimoy’s inspiration for Mr. Spock’s Vulcan salute in the original Star Trek television series. Nimoy, raised an orthodox Jew (but not a Kohen), used the salute when saying “live long and prosper.” []
  4. Wikipedia []

6 Replies to “The Legacy Of Leonard Cohen’s 2009 Tel Aviv Priestly Blessing With Video Of The Event”

  1. Arlene Dick

    Thank you so much, Allan, for your very beautiful and eloquent exposition of Leonard Cohen invoking the Birkat Kohanim. Your intricate and deeply moving presentation together with the most powerful 1.57 minute video by PetSounds69, left me trembling and in tears. Yasher Koach!

  2. sturgess66

    Hi Dr. Heck – I agree with your wise words above “one of the life lessons I’ve finally learned is that one can always use an extra blessing.”

    And I thought what Leonard did at the Tel Aviv concert was beautiful. I made several screen caps of the progression of Leonard’s hand movements and posted them at the forum (albeit captured from a “recording of a telescreen projection”). Along with the words that he spoke, as only Leonard Cohen can speak words, it was very moving.

    In reference to your footnote no. 3, a few months ago I posted a link at the forum to a terrific YouTube video – an interview with Leonard Nimoy – wherein he discusses the priestly benediction, and how he came to incorporate the hand/finger formation into Star Trek – the origins of what became known as the Vulcan Salute. Here is the link –

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmkDOzjfSSY

    Thanks!

    Linda S.

  3. PI

    Thank you so much, Allan, for your very beautiful and eloquent exposition of Leonard Cohen invoking the Birkat Kohanim. Your intricate and deeply moving presentation together with the most powerful 1.57 minute video by PetSounds69, left me trembling and in tears. Yasher Koach!

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  6. Lawrence Klein Post author

    Farewell Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock
    By Lawrence Klein
    Mar 2, 2015

    Mr. Spock, the Alias of Leonard Nimoy
    A stellar career, we wish you ‘Ships Ahoy’
    Aboard beloved Star Trek’s – Star ship Enterprise.
    Galactic Career, there was never a surprise,

    Your Character was supposed to be without emotion
    A great literary concept, your delivery a potion
    For dramatic tension, with Captain Kirk,
    William Shatner, You would never shirk,

    Your “Live Long, and Prosper” was a salute
    To your spiritual source, and we’d all root.,
    For your Vulcan blend of humor and logic,
    Your humanity would shine through your pedagogic

    Demeanor. When we met aboard the Aircraft Carrier Intrepid,
    You graced Calmpute’s cover, and gave Thought Technology great ‘Cred’!

    Leonard Cohen, Happy Birthday Poem
    By Lawrence Klein
    Sept 20, 2014

    Happy eightieth Birthday, Leonard Cohen,
    Or 41 anniversary of your 39 – wherever you roam,
    A Montrealer you are , poetic and lithe,
    World Class artist – you surely thrive,

    In the spotlight of Art, a towering Voice,
    Perhaps a bit raspy, your unique choice
    Of Poetic illusions –of the human Spirit,
    Uplifting – transcendent – depth and wit,

    Unique is the word to capture your Song,
    “Halleluiah” – rejoice – you make us belong
    To our humanity, as we wander the World,
    Our roots, grounded in your song. Never old.

    We rejoice in the wonder you help us discover
    Accept our thanks, spiritual big brother.

    Copyright Lawrence Klein 2014