Gershon Hepner

Hearing the Redeemer When He Knocks

If you are wondering if you’ll hear

the redeemer when he knocks

on your door, perhaps you fear

the sound, and keep him out with locks.

On the other hand, there may

in fact be no door other than

your mind you block, which is your way

of blowing him away, a fan

who thinks he does, but does not, know

what this redeemer’s all about:

a construct you have made to blow

your mind, and him, away with doubt.


As Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik in “Kol Dodi Dofeq

memorably implied, God knocked six times in order to awake

the Jews, who in the Song of Songs was seen as their Beloved,

and join Him in a Promised Land that he’d told Abraham to covet,

blowing away United Nations’ doubts that Jews

deserved to own and rule a land to which He had commanded

their ancestor to go in Genesis. Because he would refuse

to doubt this promise, they did too, and therefore in Israel have landed.


Gen. 12:1-3 states:

א  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם, לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ. 1 Now the LORD said unto Abram: ‘Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee.

ב  וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ, לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל, וַאֲבָרֶכְךָ, וַאֲגַדְּלָה שְׁמֶךָ; וֶהְיֵה, בְּרָכָה.  2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing.

ג  וַאֲבָרְכָה, מְבָרְכֶיךָ, וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ, אָאֹר; וְנִבְרְכוּ בְךָ, כֹּל מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה.  3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’

Gen. 15:18 states:

יח  בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא, כָּרַת יְהוָה אֶת-אַבְרָם–בְּרִית לֵאמֹר:  לְזַרְעֲךָ, נָתַתִּי אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת, מִנְּהַר מִצְרַיִם, עַד-הַנָּהָר הַגָּדֹל נְהַר-פְּרָת.          18 In that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: ‘Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, in his article, “The Righteous Suffer: Kol Dodi Dofek,” written eight years after the establishment of the state of Israel, states:

Eight years ago, in the midst of a night of the terrors of Majdanek, Treblinka, and Buchenwald; in ‎a ‎night of gas chambers and crematoria; in a night of total divine self-concealment; in a night ruled ‎by ‎the devil of doubt and destruction who sought to sweep the Lover from her own tent into ‎the ‎Catholic Church; in a night of continuous searching for the Beloved — on that very night ‎the ‎Beloved appeared. The Almighty, who was hiding in His splendid sanctum, suddenly appeared ‎and ‎began to beckon at the tent of the Lover, who tossed and turned on her bed beset by ‎convulsions ‎and the agonies of hell. Because of the beating and knocking at the door of the ‎mournful Lover, ‎the State of Israel was born.‎

How many times did the Beloved knock on the door of the Lover? It appears to me that we ‎can ‎count at least six knocks.‎….

One of the deepest of mysteries, troubling Judaism from the dawn of its existence, is the ‎problem ‎of suffering. At a propitious moment of Divine compassion, Moses, the master of all ‎prophets, ‎pleaded before the Lord of All to be enlightened as to the workings of this ‎impenetrable ‎phenomenon.1 I Moses knocked on the gates of heaven and cried out, “Show me ‎now Your ways, ‎that I shall comprehend You, so that I might find grace in Your eyes … instruct me ‎as to Your glory” ‎‎(Exodus 33:13, Exodus 33:18).‎

Why and wherefore are hardships visited on man? Why and wherefore do the righteous ‎suffer ‎and evildoers prosper? From that wondrous morning when Moses, the faithful ‎shepherd, ‎communed with the Creator of the Universe and pleaded for the comprehensive ‎solution to this ‎question of questions, throughout the generations, the prophets and sages of ‎Israel have grappled ‎with this conundrum. Habakkuk demanded satisfaction for this affront to ‎justice; Jeremiah, King ‎David in his Psalms, and Solomon in Ecclesiastes all pondered this problem. ‎The Book of Job is ‎totally dedicated to this ancient riddle that still hovers over our world and ‎demands its own ‎resolution: Why does the Holy One, blessed be He, permit evil to have dominion ‎over His ‎creations.‎

Judaism, in quest for a safe harbor in a world split and dismembered by existential suffering, and ‎in ‎its search for a solution to the mystery of the suffering that (to all outward appearances) ‎pervades ‎without limits, came to a new formulation and definition of this problem that has both ‎greater ‎breadth and greater depth. Posing the question of suffering, claims Judaism, is possible in ‎two ‎separate dimensions: the dimension of fate and the dimension of destiny. Judaism has ‎always ‎distinguished between an “Existence of Fate” and an “Existence of Destiny,” between the ‎‎“I” ‎which is the progeny of fate and the “I” which is the child of destiny. In this distinction lies ‎hidden ‎the Jewish doctrine of suffering.‎

First, the knock of the Beloved was heard in the political arena. From the point of view ‎of ‎international relations, no one will deny that the rebirth of the State of Israel, in a political ‎sense, ‎was an almost supernatural occurrence. Both Russia and the Western nations supported ‎the ‎establishment of the State of Israel. This was perhaps the one resolution on which East and ‎West ‎concurred [during the Cold War era]. I am inclined to believe that the United Nations was ‎especially ‎created for this end — for the sake of fulfilling the mission that Divine Providence had ‎placed upon ‎it. It appears to me that one cannot point to any other concrete accomplishment on ‎the part of the ‎United Nations. Our Rabbis of blessed memory already expressed this view: At ‎times rain falls on ‎account of one individual and for one blade of grass (Breishit Rabbah 66:2). I do ‎not know who the ‎representatives of the press, with their human eyes, saw to be the chairman in ‎that fateful session ‎of the General Assembly in which the creation of the State of Israel was ‎decided, but he who ‎looked carefully with his spiritual eye saw the true Chairman who conducted ‎the proceedings — ‎the Beloved. He knocked with his gavel on the lectern. Do we not interpret the ‎passage “On that ‎night the king could not sleep” (Esther 6:1) as meaning that the King of ‎the ‎Universe could not sleep? If Ahasuerus alone had been sleepless, the matter would not ‎have ‎been at all important and salvation would not have arisen on that night. If, however, the King, ‎the ‎Master of the Universe, could not sleep, as it were, redemption would be born. If just ‎anyone ‎were to have opened the session of the United Nations, the State of Israel would not have ‎been ‎born. But it was the Beloved who rapped on the Chairman’s lectern, and the miracle ‎materialized. ‎Listen! My Beloved Knocks!‎

The response of the nations to the sounds of the knocking was hopefully the first step of a fulfillment of a prophesy in Micah 4:3-4 which most sadly has not yet occurred:

ג  וְשָׁפַט, בֵּין עַמִּים רַבִּים, וְהוֹכִיחַ לְגוֹיִם עֲצֻמִים, עַד-רָחוֹק; וְכִתְּתוּ חַרְבֹתֵיהֶם לְאִתִּים, וַחֲנִיתֹתֵיהֶם לְמַזְמֵרוֹת–לֹא-יִשְׂאוּ גּוֹי אֶל-גּוֹי חֶרֶב, וְלֹא-יִלְמְדוּן עוֹד מִלְחָמָה.   3 And He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide concerning mighty nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

ד  וְיָשְׁבוּ, אִישׁ תַּחַת גַּפְנוֹ וְתַחַת תְּאֵנָתוֹ–וְאֵין מַחֲרִיד:  כִּי-פִי יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת, דִּבֵּר.      4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig-tree; and none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken.

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