Gershon Hepner

Anything That Can, Can Exist

Anything that can exist can also not


That which most intoxicates is also what

the serpent hissed,


intoxicating Eve and Adam in the Garden quicker


strong liquor that makes every sucker a far sicker



Hanukkah’s remnant that persists is not the oil

that’s pure,

but purity itself, that’s for the soul and soil

the cure.


Belief that almost anything that can exist can do so

is a belief

in miracles, taken from our Torah trousseau

for relief.


“Saying “Yes we can” is hard for humans, but

God performs

such “cans”, not locking in the Torah trousseau he keeps shut

such norms.





The fifth verse of the Hanukkah song, Maoz Tzur, reads as follow:


 יְוָנִים נִקְבְּצוּ עָלַי אֲזַי בִּימֵי חַשְׁמַנִּים.


חוֹמוֹת מִגְדָּלַי וְטִמְּאוּ כָּל הַשְּׁמָנִים.


וּמִנּוֹתַר קַנְקַנִּים נַעֲשָׂה נֵס לַשּׁוֹשַׁנִּים.


בְּנֵי בִינָה יְמֵי שְׁמוֹנָה קָבְעוּ שִׁיר וּרְנָנִים.


Greeks gathered against me

then in Hasmonean days.

They breached the walls of my towers

and they defiled all the oils;

And from the one remnant of the flasks

a miracle was wrought for the roses.

Men of insight – eight days

established for song and jubilation


The word קַנְקַנִּיםflasks, is unusual, not found in the Bible or the Talmud. וּמִנּוֹתַר קַנְקַנִּים, which I have translated “from the remnant of the flasks” may actually be a poetic allusion to the Jews who were saved, the saving remnant being not the small amount of pure oil in that was used to light the menorah in the Temple on the original Hanukkah for eight days, but the saving remnant of the Jews who were able to perform this miracle, and say “Yes, I can.”


Prof. Yitzhak Y. Melamed, in his article “Raise Up the Shepherd(s) – Maoz Tzur’s Eschatological Ending,”, points out that the Maoz Tzur  was written in response to the slaughter of dozens of Jewish communities—children, women and the elderly—by the Crusaders.


On a more carefree note, it occurred to me while rereading this poem on the third day of Hanukkah 5783 that the opening two lines of this poem “Everything that can exist can also not exist” might be read as an amusing allusion to can-can dancers dancing in the Moulin Rouge, the קַנְקַנִּיםflasks, in the fifth verse to the song’s last verse, which reads:


חֲשׂוֹף זְרוֹעַ קדְשֶׁךָ וְקָרֵב קֵץ הַיְשׁוּעָה

נְקֹם נִקְמַת עֲבָדֶיךָ מֵאֻמָּה הָרְשָׁעָה

כִּי אָרְכָה הַשָּׁעָה וְאֵין קֵץ לִימֵי הָרָעָה

דְּחֵה אַדְמוֹן בְּצֵל צַלְמוֹן הָקֵם לָנוּ רוֹעִים שִׁבְעָה


Expose your holy arm,

And bring the end, the redemption,

Avenge the abuse of your servants from the wicked nation

because the hour has lasted too long and there is no end to the days of misery,

wipe out admon, the Red One, betsel tsalmon, with his shadow of his cross, establish for us seven shepherds.


While in Hebrew the penultimate verse alludes to what I translate as “can-can dancers,” such as Salome whom Herod, friend of the Romans, asked to dance tantalizingly for him, an admon, the Red One, means Catholic Europe to which Hazal ascribe an Edomite source, connecting it to Esau who had red hair.  This is how Yitzhak Melamed translates admon based on the the two words that follow it, betsel tsalmon, denoting “the shadow of his cross” in his article in (“Raise up for us the shepherd of the seven / the seven shepherds”).  Feeling humorous, I midrashically suggest that admon may allude to the Moulin Rouge during La Belle Epoque, where can-can dancers, to which qanqanim alludes in the fifth verse, would  dance in a future generation, such as the one when Herzl famously espoused the Zionist cause, unpanicked by the pandemic of antisemitism that infected France at the end of the 19th century, betsel tsalmon,  due to “the shadow of the  cross.”


Influenced by the spirit of my outrageous hiddush, my son, Rabbi Zachary Hepner, commented poetically:


Admon is the system administrator, tzel tzalmon is the cloud.

May God confound the Satan who is inserting computer viruses into the cloud.


This was the comment made by Linda, while flippantly frying latkes:


Thank you. As nutty as any hiddush you ever wrote.

Zero Mostel should be in this movie or Mel Brooks. Dancing bearded Pharisees doing the cancan kicking up their skirts in a row. What a draw for the Temple Theatre!


Linda’s comment caused me to wonder whether the hissing serpent in this poem’s fourth line may have been a Monty Python.

About the Author
Gershon Hepner is a poet who has written over 25,000 poems on subjects ranging from music to literature, politics to Torah. He grew up in England and moved to Los Angeles in 1976. Using his varied interests and experiences, he has authored dozens of papers in medical and academic journals, and authored "Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel." He can be reached at