Looking for Leonard: A reflection on Leonard Cohen, from another inspired Jewish musician

Looking for Leonard on tour in Montreal. Photo: Yaakov Lepon
Looking for Leonard on tour in Montreal. (Yaakov Lepon)

Tears lineup behind my eye and volunteer for when I cry
they all depart without goodbye
to the world they knew when Leonard died.

Dear Leonard,

Late at night in a Jerusalem parking lot, a long, classy woman introduced me to you through the sound system of her car. We stayed in her car for hours under the imaginary stars listening to ‘Songs Of Love & Hate’. I adored your poetic, deep voice and fingerpicking style of playing guitar. With you, I shared in those exact three attributes of my artistic style. I watched videos of you closely, and even began to mimic you in my private music sessions.

A decade later, I fell for you again. One day after three long performances, a friend’s mother suggested a book to me. It was a book you, Leonard, wrote, and I jumped on the opportunity. I don’t remember the name of the book– it wasn’t a popular book– but I ate it up. Rarely do I finish a book in one weekend, but in this case, the weekend flew by with the pages of your book. I read all about Montreal, the city in which you lived, my tour was coincidentally extended soonafter, and I performed in your hometown.

A wise and prolific folk singer and composer, Shlomo Carlebach, once said, “Sometimes people miss out on the greatest moments of their lives because of their schedules.” I knew this to be true, though I looked for you through the tour bus windows on every street corner, into every café; everywhere I went, but I never did see you. If I hadn’t been on a tight schedule lined with performances, I probably would have wandered off and found you — I was so close but so far.

I don’t have many regrets, but I deeply regret not meeting you. They say some people love others because they love themselves and see themselves in others. I find this to be true, and particularly true in our case, Leonard. You automatically earned my respect as a high holy priest (Cohen) of the Levite tribe of Israel; the tribe which in temple times was, and will be, responsible for leading song in the house of prayer for all nations. You earned my respect as a well-expressed poet and songwriter. You saw light in the dark, and beauty in places others didn’t. Doing just that has never been my mission, but it was always something I did naturally. But now that you’re gone, Leonard, I will make it my mission.

Today, my mother told me that she used to describe me to others as a young Leonard Cohen. The head of my poetry barely touches the tail of yours on a ladder, but you are so big that perhaps there’s room for me too. During the 30 years of my life, many great artists have left this world and moved onto the next, but never did I feel a knot in my stomach, leading to the internal choking of tears, as I felt when you left us with your last and final departing song, “You Want It Darker.”

My take on your final recording is that you knew your time here was up. You were talking to the creator just as you were in many of your songs, but this time, you alluded to the creator’s master plan for utopian messianic times, and you inferred that the creator wants it darker before he is willing to reveal this great light. Like this, the creator will transform even deeper darkness into light. ‘We kill the flame,’ because we are all instruments of the creator who intrinsically perform the creator’s will. We make it darker so that it can be dark enough for the creator to reveal the final great redemptive light — and it seems that majority of humans are doing just this.

I believe that the other, more preferred option is to fix everything ourselves and bring about utopia in a deservent way. As an inspired Jewish musician myself, I hope to do this using the universal language of music to remind all of us that true peace begins with ourselves, with our families, with our friends, and then it will filter naturally beyond that. All the hate on the streets, in the classrooms, in our living rooms, can be eradicated when we remember that we don’t need to agree in order to get along, in order to love. With eyes like yours, Leonard, we can bring out each other’s beauty by judging each other favorably, by seeing the light in the dark.

I really wanted to meet you in this world. I guess I’ll have to wait until the next. I really wanted you to hear my debut album, as people tell me it reminds them of you. All I can do is pray that it is released in both worlds.

Love beyond all live senses,





About the Author
Yitzchok Meir Malek leads a fresh, grassroots movement with growing and sustainable momentum that uses the power of music, shared events, holiday celebrations, and social projects to provide a deeply meaningful and engaging experience of unity between different kinds of Jews and non Jews alike. He is 30, and has lived in Jerusalem since he moved here alone at the age of 17. By day Yitzchok Meir plans revolutionary events for the city. By night YM plays concerts and is getting ready to release his debut album with Ronny Vance (former president of Geffen Music and Interscope Music, responsible for the signings of Tupac, New Edition, Stephen Sondheim, Bruce Hornsby and Gwen Stephani, and for the placement of such notable songs as "Maniac,” “New Attitude,” and Eric Clapton’s two-time 1998 Grammy winning song "Change The World,") to be released next season. He made aliyah at age 17 from NY because he didn't want to be history, he wanted to be part of making history. He believes that the best way to feel at home in Jerusalem is to grab a musical instrument and walk the streets returning smiles and making new friends. If there’s anything he’s learned about connecting to the community here, it is if you want something to happen, anything, you can make it happen, and you should.
Related Topics
Related Posts