Gershon Hepner

He Could Have Asked for Redemption

When admitted into heaven, Bontshe Shtok

told the angels of the favor he wished to receive.

“Fresh rolls with butter ever morning.”  “Laughingstock!”

they all declared, since none of them were able to believe

that Bontshe didn’t ask for something that was greater.

“You could have had redemption had you only asked for it,”

they told him. He could wait for that—perhaps it would come later! —

but he requested what he wanted most, no hypocrite.


In Haaretz, 9/14/12, four rabbis give brief advice for Rosh Hashanah. Rabbi Shlomo Riskin writes in a paragraph entitled “Ask for Redemption”:

“What is it that we’re supposed to ask of God? Most people who come to the synagogue ask for another year of life. Ask for good health. Ask for pleasure from their children. Ask for good sustenance,” says Riskin. “But there’s a story by [the Yiddish writer I. L.] Peretz, ‘Bontshe Shtok,’ Bontshe the Silent, about a man who lived a horrific life and never said a word against God or against man. When he came to heaven, God asked him, ‘You tell me what you want as your reward.’ The only thing he could ask for was a fresh roll and hot butter every morning. And Satan laughed the mordant laugh of victory. Sometimes the world can be so difficult it robs an individual of his dreams and of real vision. He could have asked for redemption.”

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