Gratitude and Hallelujah!

Have you considered that most things that happen in our lives are neither essentially good nor bad but some ambiguous mix that we consider “ordinary?”

Perhaps one of the most haunting melodies in contemporary music is Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah! Since his death on November 7, 2016, the song has been presented in a variety of forms with many different verses.

While the tune is familiar, I suspect that most people don’t realize that Cohen drafted approximately 80 verses for this song. Some verses are familiar to us, like one referring to the Biblical psalmist David who knew a “secret cord” for sacred music or the image of Delilah cutting Samson’s hair. As one digs into the variety of verses written by Cohen, it becomes clear that most are not about a sacred text or religion. Rather, the verses are about life: joys and disappointments; moments of mediocrity and of failure; times of happiness followed by difficult experiences. The melody, written in minor keys, makes the song both mournful and compelling.

In the varied life experiences conveyed in Cohen’s verses to this song, the refrain returns to a simple, “Hallelujah!’ The word is Hebrew. It’s a term found throughout ancient Jewish texts. Its meaning is something like, “Glory to God” or “Blessed be the Name.” In English, we use the more common Latin form: alleluia. But here’s what I think is truly significant: Cohen’s use of the term is not the Christian “Alleluia!” — a word associated with praise, elation and the Easter season marking the resurrection of Jesus. Cohen’s “Hallelujah!” is thoroughly Jewish. What’s the difference?

The spirituality of Judaism is rooted in the here and now, not in a life in the here-after. In a Jewish context, if there is a reason to say, “Hallelujah!” then it’s about the events of life as we know and experience them. Most of our lives are neither totally good nor fully fraught with horrible events. Instead, they are an ambiguous mix of the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, the sunshine and the rain. It’s in this ambiguous mix that forms life as we experience it that Cohen invites us to sing, “Hallelujah!”

In thinking of living with gratitude for life, it’s unbalanced to focus on just the wonderful and amazing moments we experience. That’s just one aspect of our lives. Instead, authentic gratitude is the ability to sing, “Hallelujah!” in the midst of life’s ambiguity.

In the end, I find that perhaps this verse of Cohen’s Hallelujah! best illustrates how gratitude can be experienced in our lives of ambiguous events, intentions, and actions. It’s honest, it’s real, and still leads us to sing, “Hallelujah!”

“I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah”

(taken from:

YES! For all the moments of life, Hallelujah!

As you think of your life today, what brings you to sing, “Hallelujah?”

Photo source: CCO Liscense

© 2016, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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