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Coming Back to You: Leonard Cohen and Elul

Coming Back to You: Leonard Cohen and Elul

Rabbi Rick Brody

This post is mainly a shell, since I don’t have time at the moment to write a full interpretation or reflection. In many ways, the brilliant songwriter’s lyrics (found below) speak quite well for themselves, though I do believe they are begging for exegesis — to be opened up, interpreted, and applied — or, what we say in rabbi-speak, to be “d’rashed.”

For now, I will simply say — especially knowing a bit about Leonard Cohen’s personal history — that I find it absolutely impossible to doubt that this song is completely about t’shuvah (repentance, return, setting things right, restoring oneself to wholeness), and that the “You” to which we (both the speaker in the song and all of us, for whom, as our emissary — our sh’liach tzibbur — he is really singing) are “coming back” is the One, the Eternal Source of Light and Love, the One Who Desires our Return.

I would close by saying “Happy Returning,” but we all know that the process of Return is cumbersome, awkward, challenging — an emotional roller-coaster ride. Instead, I will simply wish us all strength and success as we rise to the challenge of Return, especially in these days of increasing awe that lead us towards the New Year.

Coming Back to You

by Leonard Cohen

Maybe I’m still hurting
I can’t turn the other cheek
But you know that I still love you
It’s just that I can’t speak
I looked for you in everyone
And they called me on that too
I lived alone but I was only
Coming back to you

Ah they’re shutting down the factory now
Just when all the bills are due
And the fields they’re under lock and key
Tho’ the rain and the sun come through
And springtime starts but then it stops
In the name of something new
And all the senses rise against this
Coming back to you

And they’re handing down my sentence now
And I know what I must do
Another mile of silence while I’m
Coming back to you

There are many in your life
And many still to be
Since you are a shining light
There’s many that you’ll see
But I have to deal with envy
When you choose the precious few
Who’ve left their pride on the other side of
Coming back to you

Even in your arms I know
I’ll never get it right
Even when you bend to give me
Comfort in the night
I’ve got to have your word on this
Or none of it is true
And all I’ve said was just instead of
Coming back to you

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2 responses to “Coming Back to You: Leonard Cohen and Elul

  1. And, of course, the epic theme of Leonard’s “Who By Fire?” is a standard in my services. The power of contemporary music to stir the soul at this time of year cannot be understated, as you know. L’shana tovah! Robbi

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