Psalm 51 & Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”


The article from the Jewish periodical, The Forward, entitled “How Jewish is Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah?’ A Forward investigation in 9 verses,” discusses Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah”—another song that features David and Batsheva as a superscription in the second verse. How might this song relate to the themes of Psalm 51?

In “Hallelujah” a song we find that the text draws from Kabbalah, the Psalms and Hasidic thought. It is a manifesto of a man whose life was spent appealing to, and wrestling with, the absolute, and touching the mundane with the divine. It is the living text of a new Psalmist, who birthed a melodic prayer used in synagogues — but who never meant for it to be heard in those sacred spaces. “Hallelujah,” with its layered contradictions, is a mark of Cohen’s spiritual consistency, and finally, his work as a Jew hoping to comprehend a holy, broken world. But before it became all that, it was yet another struggle to find the right words. (Photo credit: The Forward)