Gershon Hepner
Gershon Hepner

Felix Mendelssohn has the last laugh

The Reformation symphony by Mendelssohn provided
the leitmotif employed by Richard Wagner for the Holy Grail,
collaboration Wagner never would admit when he collided
with Mendelssohn, whose music he declared to be beyond the Pale.

We need to know that holiness is not found by pursuing goblets
like the Holy Grail. Completely different, it’s not even found
in letters that God’s holy fingers carved in heaven on stone tablets,
because it’s based on decency towards all creatures on the ground.

The “Dresden Amen”, a Lutheran theme composed by JG Naumann, and that Mendelssohn introduces in the first movement of his Fifth Symphony (“The Reformation”), is used by Wagner as his “Parsifal” Grail leitmotif. Rabbi David Wolpe pointed out in a sermon regarding the sidra of Qedoshim that a key phrase used by the Monty Pythons — creators of the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” — was “And now for something completely different.” He suggested that this phrase can be applied to the concept of holiness in this sidra, not only to the respect that man pays to a divine being, as commonly thought in other ancient religions, but to the love a Jew should feel to all his neighbors. This is a rule to which all the rest of the Torah is mere commentary, as Hillel famously told a would-be convert.  Rabbi Wolpe added that the concept is extended by Amos 9:7 in the haftarah read after the sidra of Qedoshim. Its juxtaposition to the sidra implies that Amos extended the concept of holiness to decent behavior between all people in the world.

Gershon Hepner


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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