Video: 2009 Leonard Cohen Barcelona Blessings “May your life be sweet as apples dipped in honey”

Yesterday’s post about Leonard Cohen’s Priestly Blessing – Belfast 2009 called to mind another special Cohen blessing. At the Sept 21 2009 Barcelona show, Leonard incorporated a reference to the Rosh Hashanah custom of eating a slice of apple dipped in honey to express hopes that the upcoming year will be sweet and fruitful. An enlightening exposition of the origins and meaning of this Rosh Hashanah tradition can be found at Aish.com.

Leonard Cohen – Blessings
Barcelona: Sept 21 2009
Video by TallMan3rdRow

 

Note: Originally posted Oct 1, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Video: Leonard Cohen’s Priestly Blessing – Belfast 2009

The Priestly Blessing

Leonard Cohen’s final blessings were an integral part of his 2008-2013 shows. The best known of these, the Priestly Blessing, was a highlight of his historical Sept 24, 2009 Tel Aviv, Israel concert. (For another special Cohen blessing, see Video: 2009 Leonard Cohen Barcelona Blessings “May your life be sweet as apples dipped in honey”)

As this post, originally published July 28, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com,1 a predecessor of Cohencentric, indicates, however, the Tel Aviv show was not the only – or even the first – time Leonard invoked the Priestly Blessing. The Tel Aviv Blessing was more dramatic with the formal “lifting of the hands” and Leonard Cohen’s recitation of the Blessing in Hebrew. More information about the history of the Priestly Blessing and its manifestation at the Tel Aviv show an be found at The Legacy Of Leonard Cohen’s 2009 Tel Aviv Priestly Blessing With Video Of The Event.

Leonard Cohen’s blessings, his final address to the audience at the July 26, 2009 Belfast concert, varied from the benedictions he has used at most of his performances, including  his most recent shows in Dublin a few days earlier.

The Belfast blessings were taken from The Priestly Blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26, the prayer to be used by Aaron and his sons for the blessing of the children of Israel. 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.

The King James version follows:

The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

Leonard Cohen – Blessings
Belfast: July 28, 2009

 

For comparison, the blessings from the Aug 4, 2009 Lisbon concert, which reflect Cohen’s most frequently used comments,2 are offered in the video below.

Leonard Cohen – Blessings
Lisbon: Aug 4, 2009

 

_________________________

  1. Note the final video has been updated because the video used in the original post is no longer available []
  2. Cohen’s blessings are rarely identical but typically take the form of permutations consisting of 2 or 3 comments drawn from 4 or 5 possibilities. []

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
_______________________________

  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 []

A Concert-Goer’s Perspective On Leonard Cohen’s Priestly Blessings At The 2009 Tel Aviv Concert

jerwan2

Leonard Cohen And The Jerusalem Gypsy Meet In Tel Aviv

While perhaps not the most elegant or lyrical account of the Leonard Cohen Tel Aviv Concert, The High Priest, a post by Jerusalem Gypsy in the Jerusalem Wanderings blog may prove to be my favorite.

Jerusalem Gypsy, you see, admires Leonard Cohen and acknowledges that he is, indeed, The Man, but JG is not, as she points out, “a total fanatic.” And, although she seems confident of Cohen’s abilities, she is not willing to automatically cede her approval.  She is attending the concert to watch Cohen perform, not to pay homage.

I also appreciate the details she provides about the setting and her admirably idiosyncratic responses to them. I’ve read reviews  from the Jerusalem Post and  Bloomberg.com, Cohen Defies Critics With Israeli Gig from The Independent, Yonat Frilling’s  moving testimonial, and too many other descriptions and analyses of the Tel Aviv concert, but only Jerusalem Gypsy reports sacrificing the hot dog with sauerkraut to go she craved because she “decided [she would] rather starve than miss buses [to the concert].”

And certainly no other reviewer was willing to dedicate a paragraph to (justifiably, one perceives) defaming the bank that was willing to sponsor the concert and provide a gift bag to members of the audience but unwilling to refinance JG’s house loan.

This is a woman to whom I can relate. She is eager to attend the concert but she first has to finish her work because

The worst thing would be for me to come back to work on Tuesday, after the Yom Kippur vacation, to a mountain of shit on my desk.

Other folks, no doubt, are awaiting the start of the concert pondering the socio-political implications of Cohen’s show on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or contemplating the subtle shift in the cosmic consciousness Cohen’s songs would trigger that night.  Jerusalem Gypsy, however, is locked on exactly the same issue on which I would have focused:

My first thought, as the concert began, was – am I going to feel that the concert was worth the 800 shekels I spent? [emphasis mine]

All that makes Jerusalem Gypsy’s record of her concert experience splendidly personal and her reaction to the concert, especially to the blessings at the end of the performance more moving to me than the most exquisitely written reports from others.

Excerpts follow, but the entire post is worth reading at The High Priest:

I kept on telling everyone at work for the entire week that on Thursday I had a meeting with the Jewish High Priest – the Cohen Gadol, the Priest of Priests. I managed to snag an expensive ticket to Leonard Cohen’s performance last night and I was sure the High Priest would bless his audience. I thought about it for quite a number of days – about what a great idea that would be for him to give the priestly blessing to an audience of 47,000.

I was awash in day dreams throughout the day, wishing I was his spiritual tour guide while he was in the country. …

… although I really like Leonard Cohen’s music, I am not a total fanatic, I don’t know the words to all of his songs.

We all got off  [the bus at] the next stop and had about 25 minutes before the concert starts. Leonard is known for being punctual. When we finally got to the stadium, the lines in front of the gates were frightening. Hundreds of people had yet to get into their gate. No one seemed as frantic as I. I went over to gate 10. There was nobody at the gate. It must have been a gate of people who had all come early. The guy looked at my ticket to see if it was a forgery or if it was real. It was real. Thank God it was real because I didn’t want to have to kill the guy who sold it to me, which was fine, because I ended up sitting right next to him and his girlfriend.

The concert began one minute after I got to my seat. There was a Bank Discount green bag on my seat, and I thought for a moment that someone had taken my spot. But I saw those green bags everywhere. That’s the least that stupid bank can do. I tried for two years to get refinancing on a loan where they were charging me 12% interest. They wouldn’t hear of it. So I changed banks. But I’ll take the green insulated bag – thank you. Fuckers.

My first thoughts, as the concert began, was – am I going to feel that the concert was worth the 800 shekels I spent? For one, my seats were fabulous. I sat around 30 rows back and only 2 rows up from the floor. I saw the stage clearly, but if I wanted to see Leonard’s expressions, I had to look at the screen. The same guy who did Leonard’s poetry reading in Hebrew in Jerusalem, had his translations of the lyrics shown as subtitles on the screen. I hope he got to meet the Man for his efforts. The Jerusalem Post’s review mirrored the same emotions/reactions/feelings I had about this concert. I knew about 80% of his songs, and I sang along to the ones I knew. I took some photos (to be posted tomorrow) and one video. And I wondered how this man could get everything so perfect – from the simple stage backdrop of flowing chiffon-like curtains, using only different colored lighting for the stage, which didn’t annoy the crap out of me because the lighting changes were slow and elegant, just like the entire performance. Leonard’s voice was perfect. The band was incredible. He was incredible. The audience was great. Noisy when it had to be, yet when he spoke, you could hear a pin drop. Everything was incredible. So, yes, it was worth the fortune I spent.

I loved the version of Who By Fire (or is the song called “who shall I say is calling?”) – probably one of the evenings favorites of mine. The Spanish guitarist/lute player, or whatever that instrument is, was amazing. Cohen gave so many encores, I lost count. I felt tears running down my cheeks by the end.

We must have been on the same wavelength somehow, either that, or I am psychic as all hell, because at the very end, right before he left the stage, he stood at the microphone with his hands up the way Jewish priests bless the people, and Leonard Cohen, the High Priest, blessed the audience in Hebrew with the ancient priestly blessing – “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord let His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord look kindly upon you and give you peace.”

And this is the video of that tear-evoking priestly blessing.

Leonard Cohen – Whither Thou Goest & Blessings
Tel Aviv: Sept 24, 2009
Video by MajorTom2oo1

 

I kept on telling everyone at work for the entire week that on Thursday I had a meeting with the Jewish High Priest – the Cohen Gadol, the Priest of Priests. I managed to snag an expensive ticket to Leonard Cohen’s performance last night and I was sure the High Priest would bless his audience. I thought about it for quite a number of days – about what a great idea that would be for him to give the priestly blessing to an audience of 47,000.

I was awash in day dreams throughout the day, wishing I was his spiritual tour guide while he was in the country. I’d take him to my friend Ibrahim in the Mt. of Olives, to the Sufi Sheikh on the Via Dolorosa, midnight praying at the Western Wall, etc. etc.

So at 4:30 pm while I was shredding paper, as the last thing I do before I leave the office, people seemed aghast.

“What are you still doing here?”

“I need to clear up my life” I explained. The worst thing would be for me to come back to work on Tuesday, after the Yom Kippur vacation, to a mountain of shit on my desk. I told another person standing at the reception area that I needed to get to the bank to take out some money. I can’t go to Tel Aviv penniless.

“Do you want money?” asked another person.

While shredding, I’m telling him “who doesn’t want money! Of course I want money.”

His generosity would have saved me 1/2 hour which would have gotten me to Tel Aviv a bit earlier. He was worried because he read in the papers that roads would be closed for the concert and was concerned that I wouldn’t make it on time.

“Don’t worry” I told him. “Leonard will wait for me.”

I got the cash, grabbed a taxi to the central bus station and craved a hot dog with sauerkraut to go, but when I saw the huge line waiting for the Tel Aviv buses, I decided I’d rather starve than miss buses. Everyone on line was talking about Leonard – I think half the bus was on its way to Ramat Gan Stadium.

Two buses filled up before I was able to get on one, and 20 minutes later, I was sitting in the front next to a woman with a cane, who told me the best way to walk to the stadium from the bus station. She’s a native Tel Avivian, and I listened the entire way to her life story. When we got to Tel Aviv, an American woman listening to our conversation, also going to the concert, decided to do the walk with me. While beginning our walk, I’m telling her that although I really like Leonard Cohen’s music, I am not a total fanatic, I don’t know the words to all of his songs. And while I said that a young man walking in front of us turned around and shot me a look as if to tell me ‘then what the hell are you even seeing him for. You don’t belong…. only the ‘real’ fans belong.” But we scurried past him only to meet others from Jerusalem walking in the same direction. One young man, who seemed to know in which direction the stadium was, told us it’s about an hour’s walk. So we hopped on a bus.

Bad move. The traffic wasn’t moving, and the bus was sitting in traffic for 20 minutes. We had only moved a couple of blocks. We all pleaded with the young bus driver to please let us off the bus, but he was adamant to make us wait until the next stop, about a kilometer away. Someone offered to pay his fine, should he be fined for letting us off illegally. I told him the concert is starting in 1/2 hour and we’re getting frantic. No one wants to miss even one song.

“You want to party?” the driver asks, thinking that this is some bad-ass rock concert. “Here, let’s party” and he turns up the volume on this awful dance club music. Doesn’t the shmuck know who Leonard Cohen is?

We all got off the next stop and had about 25 minutes before the concert starts. Leonard is known for being punctual. When we finally got to the stadium, the lines in front of the gates were frightening. Hundreds of people had yet to get into their gate. No one seemed as frantic as I. I went over to gate 10. There was nobody at the gate. It must have been a gate of people who had all come early. The guy looked at my ticket to see if it was a forgery or if it was real. It was real. Thank God it was real because I didn’t want to have to kill the guy who sold it to me, which was fine, because I ended up sitting right next to him and his girlfriend.

The concert began one minute after I got to my seat. There was a Bank Discount green bag on my seat, and I thought for a moment that someone had taken my spot. But I saw those green bags everywhere. That’s the least that stupid bank can do. I tried for two years to get refinancing on a loan where they were charging me 12% interest. They wouldn’t hear of it. So I changed banks. But I’ll take the green insulated bag – thank you. Fuckers.

My first thoughts, as the concert began, was – am I going to feel that the concert was worth the 800 shekels I spent? For one, my seats were fabulous. I sat around 30 rows back and only 2 rows up from the floor. I saw the stage clearly, but if I wanted to see Leonard’s expressions, I had to look at the screen. The same guy who did Leonard’s poetry reading in Hebrew in Jerusalem, had his translations of the lyrics shown as subtitles on the screen. I hope he got to meet the Man for his efforts. The Jerusalem Post’s review mirrored the same emotions/reactions/feelings I had about this concert. I knew about 80% of his songs, and I sang along to the ones I knew. I took some photos (to be posted tomorrow) and one video. And I wondered how this man could get everything so perfect – from the simple stage backdrop of flowing chiffon-like curtains, using only different colored lighting for the stage, which didn’t annoy the crap out of me because the lighting changes were slow and elegant, just like the entire performance. Leonard’s voice was perfect. The band was incredible. He was incredible. The audience was great. Noisy when it had to be, yet when he spoke, you could hear a pin drop. Everything was incredible. So, yes, it was worth the fortune I spent.

I loved the version of Who By Fire (or is the song called “who shall I say is calling?”) – probably one of the evenings favorites of mine. The Spanish guitarist/lute player, or whatever that instrument is, was amazing. Cohen gave so many encores, I lost count. I felt tears running down my cheeks by the end.

We must have been on the same wavelength somehow, either that, or I am psychic as all hell, because at the very end, right before he left the stage, he stood at the microphone with his hands up the way Jewish priests bless the people, and Leonard Cohen, the High Priest, blessed the audience in Hebrew with the ancient priestly blessing – “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord let His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord look kindly upon you and give you peace.”

Other 2009 Leonard Cohen Tel Aviv Show Posts

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