Gershon Hepner

Crooked Lines and Immortality, Making Jacob Smile

What is crooked cannot be corrected,”
wrote the Preacher. Before Mandelbrot
no one could measure it, but he inspected
lines that till he tried had not
been measurable, like Britain’s coastal length,
and the monstrous outlines of a cloud.

Fractal dimensions gave to him the strength
conventional techniques had not endowed.
With fractals he was able to explain
how galaxies can cluster, and the price
of wheat can change, and folds within the brain
grow curvy, unpredictable as dice.

He stimulated all his field by making
conjectures that he couldn’t verify:
though criticized for this, there’s no mistaking
that on his work we can rely.
In his honor they have named a set
of objects as “the set of Mandelbrot.”
With crooked shots he kicked balls in the net,
and used his twisted lines to score a lot.

Rabbi Wolpe used his fractals to explain
why we are told that Jacob never died.
Wolpe made the meaning of this plain
when he with fractal shapes of food supplied
a brilliant explanation.  Looking at
a cauliflower, he observed that all
its parts are fractal, and suggested that
all Israel’s shapes just like this food recall
shapes of all other Jews, not only those
who live, but those like Jacob who’re deceased.

Redacting cheerfully, Rav Yitzhak chose
to teach that what is more is like the least.
From cauliflower he’d just eaten learning
that Father Jacob’s life is fractally
a part of all Jews’ lives, his late light burning
in all Jews, when, renewed redactally.

I’m sure one reason that Rav Yitzhak said
those words, was to make people smile
as Jacob did. This proved he was not dead
when catching the head of a non-Judeophile,
Esau, which had fallen on him just after
it was cut off when Esau asked to be
interred where Jacob lay, the old man’s laughter
posthumous proof of his eternity.

Benoit Mandelbrot coined the term “fractal” to refer to a new class of mathematical shapes whose uneven contours could mimic the irregularities found in nature. “Applied mathematics had been concentrating for a century on phenomena which were smooth, but many things were not like that: the more you blew them up with a microscope the more complexity you found,” said David Mumford, a professor of mathematics at Brown University.

Rabbi David Wolpe wrote in an Off the Pulpit article on 1/10/19:
Nothing in history is exactly the same of course. But there are recurrent patterns in the experience of the Jewish people that validate the rabbinic insight. Jews are often called the people of the book, but we can also learn a lot from the cauliflower.

Genesis Rabbah (97.29, Theodor-Albeck), states that, although deceased, Jacob opened his eyes and smiled when Esau’s head fell between his legs after Dan’s son hit his head with a club.

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
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