"A Leonard Cohen Shabbat Service" at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Los Angeles Nov 16.12

November 19, 2012
Image on cover page of prayer package containing lyrics to eight Leonard Cohen songs

I heard about the Leonard Cohen Shabbat Service shortly after I returned home from Leonard Cohen's Portland concert with the thrilling tour debut of Joan Of Arc, my sixth concert in 14 days. Even though all I wanted was to stay home and decompress, I just had to go to this Friday night service. 

I was told that the turnout for a Friday night service usually numbers about 75 people.

The turnout that night for the Leonard Cohen Shabbat Service was closer to 250 people.

Placed on each chair were a prayer book and what was later referred to as a prayer package, five stapled sheets with the lyrics of eight Leonard Cohen songs.

1. Hallelujah (four verses)
2. If It Be Your Will
3  The Story Of Isaac
4.  Show Me The Place
5.  Who By Fire?
6.  Whither Thou Goest
7.  Anthem
8.  Come Healing

Clergy leading the service:
Senior Rabbi Steve Leder bio here
Cantor Don Gurney bio here

Here are a few of my video clips from the hour plus service. (with permission)

Senior Rabbi Steve Leder begins the service
Rabbi Leder talks about how he discovered Leonard Cohen and how he was influenced by his writing. He references Leonard Cohen's poetry-The Spice-Box of Earth, Isaiah, A.M. Klein, Irving Layton, All There Is To Know About Adolf Eichmann. 

ANTHEM - Rabbi Steve Leder begins the service (part 2)
Rabbi  Leder quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay, Compensation - "There is  a crack in everything that G-D has made". Leder says Leonard Cohen does  G-D and Emerson one better,"There is a crack, a crack in everything.  That's how the light gets in."


THE STORY OF ISAAC / THE AKEDAH, The "Binding of Isaac"
Rabbi Leder introduces the Story of Isaac focusing on the sacrifice of children, touches on the current situation in Israel and slavery still existing in the world today. Cantor Gurney sang a quiet, chilling four verses of Story of Isaac.

Mi Shebeirach is a Jewish prayer for healing. It asks God who blessed our ancestors to bless and heal our loved ones. Video below includes the last few lines of the prayer and a few lines of Come Healing.

The Service closes with a spirited singalong
Closing the service,Cantor Don Gurney leads the congregation in singing Leonard Cohen's Halleljuah (partial clip),

At the conclusion of Hallelujah, Rabbi Steve Leder added the traditional, "Shabbat Shalom."

And when I arrived home, I saw that Joey Carenza had posted the UHTC "Shabbat Shalom", a tradition of Leonard Cohen concerts on the road.

This was indeed a special Leonard Cohen Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom - Calgary, Alberta 

  • Havdallah - more info here
  • Hashkiveinu - more info here
  • The Leonard Cohen Shabbat Service took place at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Irmas Campus 
  • Shabbat Shalom Calgary photo by: J.S. Carenza III ~ Sunshine, Hello
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay, "Compensations" here


  1. Thank you very much for this posting, Arlene. I found it very interesting, especially the comments around "The Story Of Isaac", regarding how the sentiments in the song unfortunately continue to apply in our modern world where poverty and slavery still abound.

  2. thank you so much Arlene!!