Gershon Hepner

Blood on the Doorposts

The blood is on the doorposts and

the signs are very clear

for everyone to understand

the end is drawing near.

The lintel is one threshold, but

a greater one is time;

before this both were tightly shut,

now both become sublime.


Death’s angel flies above the homes

identifying foes;

lamb-eaters faintly hear the groans

of victims that it chose.

As people die, their blood congeals,

on doorposts blood is dry;

no life from them death’s angel steals,

lamb-eaters do not die.


The children ask their parents why

this night is very different

and in their homes no children die.

Death’s angel is indifferent,

no need for question or for reason,

blood-letting is its task;

survivors still in every season

recall the dead and ask.


Keeping company with what

appears sublime, each Jew

recalls what maybe he forgot––

a different point of view

about what he has not forgotten,

adopted by some neighbors,

regarding as extremely rotten

their fathers’ sour grapers.


The haggadah makes a pun when it tells the father to respond to the wicked son in a way that would set his teeth on edge:

רָשָׁע מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר? מָה הָעֲבוֹדָה הַזּאֹת לָכֶם. לָכֶם – וְלֹא לוֹ. וּלְפִי שֶׁהוֹצִיא אֶת עַצְמוֹ מִן הַכְּלָל כָּפַר בְּעִקָּר. וְאַף אַתָּה הַקְהֵה אֶת שִׁנָּיו וֶאֱמוֹר לוֹ: “בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה ה’ לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם”. לִי וְלֹא־לוֹ. אִלּוּ הָיָה שָׁם, לֹא הָיָה נִגְאָל:

What does the wicked [son] say? “‘What is this worship to you?’ (Exodus 12:26)” ‘To you’ and not ‘to him.’ And since he excluded himself from the collective, he denied a principle [of the Jewish faith]. And accordingly, you will blunt his teeth and say to him,  “‘For the sake of this, did the Lord do [this] for me in my going out of Egypt’ (Exodus 13:8).” ‘For me’ and not ‘for him.’ If he had been there, he would not have been saved.

I think that the father’s response to the wicked son is a wordplay on Jer. 31:29:

כט  כִּי אִם-אִישׁ בַּעֲוֺנוֹ, יָמוּת:  כָּל-הָאָדָם הָאֹכֵל הַבֹּסֶר, תִּקְהֶינָה שִׁנָּיו. 29 But every one shall die for his own iniquity; every man that eateth the sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.

The words הָעֲבוֹדָה הַזּאֹת , this service, refer to the Passover sacrifice, which of course is composed of בשר, meat, a word that resonates with Jeremiah’s use of the word  הַבֹּסֶר, unripe grapes, in Jer. 31:29.

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