In a recent doco looking at a major alternative lifestyle and spirituality festival, there was a moment where a large audience of festival goers emotionally sang along to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. This struck me as a bit odd. After all, many of these people have beliefs that are anything but Abrahamic and I’d always understood the word to belong to Christianity/Judaism.
So, I looked it up.
What interested me, was that Hallelujah in Hebrew is a phrase which means Praise Yah, as in ‘you should praise Yahweh’ so it’s actually an exhortation to praise God. That’s a pretty long way from how we use it – whether you’re religious or not.
We use it more in praise or thanks, which is closer to the Greek version Alleluia which, of course, comes from the same Hebrew phrase as Hallelujah.
So really, to sing the song as a song of thanks, or praise to a higher being, it should technically be Alleluia. And possibly it should be sung by those who actually believe in Yahweh. Though it a beautiful song… maybe I’m being too literal?