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Gershon Hepner

Is God Obsolete or Merely Archaic?

Saying God is altogether obsolete,

as once poetically Yehuda Amichai declared,

isn’t very controversial, the conceit

today is by a large majority of people shared,

including those whose faith was formerly Mosaic,

Jews now completely stereotypical in this stampede.

 

I’m not, for although I would say that He’s archaic,

God still succeeds in satisfying a most basic need,

to be connected with the past, and to the laws

that in the past connected Jews to Him, “Only connect’”

a mantra that’s not obsolete, His major cause,

which, though it seems somewhat archaic, we must still respect.

Hillel Halkin reviewing The Poetry of Yehudah Amichai edited by Robert Alter in “A Complex Network of Pipes,” JRB, Winter 2018, writes:

Amichai was a deeply Jewish poet. His Orthodox education and upbringing in Germany before emigrating with his family to Palestine at the age of 12 in 1936 (he died in Jerusalem in the year 2000) left their permanent mark on him, though his adult life was lived as a non-observant Jew in secular Israeli society. This society regarded him as its own quintessential expression. He lived and wrote about its wars and tragic conflicts; he shared its appetite for life and its love of its land; his irreverent humor struck a chord in it. And yet he also had an ironic detachment from it, a distance that came partly from being steeped in a Jewish tradition that was foreign to it. He knew, as it didn’t, what had been lost. He had a yearning for the sacred whose pieties and pretensions he liked to tease. “‘What kind of man are you?’ people ask me,” begins a five-stanza poem of his translated by Chana Bloch. And he replies:

I am a man with a complex network of pipes in

my soul,

sophisticated machineries of emotion

and a precisely-monitored memory system

of the late twentieth century,

but with an old body from ancient days

and a God more obsolete even than my body.

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 gershonhepner@gmail.com.