Gershon Hepner

Pulling Meanings Frankly out of Texts like Genesis

Like spring when pulling from bare arms of trees once winter has been left behind
astounding and perhaps astonished leaves,
great scholars carefully pull meanings out of ancient texts and claim to find
what nobody who reads them need believe,
for after leaves come blossoms which all fall before the sumer that’s incumen
makes everyone forget there was a spring,
except for poets who keep its memory with words they’re always hummin’,
and fantasies to which they love to cling.

Although the meaning of the world must lie outside it, as was said by Wittgenstein,
we all strive to discover it although we live within it,
just as poetic as the book of Genesis, which starts with a meaningful bold line
where breshit bara are the two words that begin it,
which means that God created it “in the beginning,” its beginning being
its rationale, which all its readers must defend,
because by telling us that God made just the world’s beginning, it is freeing
God from responsibility if it should end.  

The Genesis conclusion sends a message like its first,
when Joseph tells his brothers that the meaning he could find
for their misdeeds implied that what is bad can be reframed, reversed
like tohu bohu, from which God the universe had mined.
Transformed by great solutions which prophetically he
predicted would prevent for their descendants doom,
reframing all past problems with a meaning for them he could see,
as if his mind was able with the meaning in God’s mind to zoom.

We should all frankly give a damn about past problems and,
as was advised by Viktor Frankl, try reframing all interpretations of the past,
because although the old ones may help us understand
the harm they caused us, they provide our present with past meanings that no longer ought to last.

When Joseph said to his brothers, identifying himself to them in Gen. 45:4 “I am Joseph your brother,” he was asking them to forgive his arrogance that had led to their criminal behavior towards him. He was reframing history in a manner Viktor Frankl advised his fellow Jews in Auschwitz and all people who face physical and mental adversity.

Joseph’s words inspired those used by Pope John Paul XXXIII, whose middle name had been Giuseppe, when he quoted them in order to introduce himself to Jewish leaders he had invited to Rome, asking their forgiveness for the church’s antisemitism which  culminated in the Shoah. 

David Rosen in Haaretz on 5/7/13 pointed out how Pope John Paul XXIII linked himself to the biblical Joseph when trying to repair the damage that the church’s antisemitism had caused the Jews for about  fifteen hundred years: 

Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli. Roncalli was the papal nuncio in Turkey during the Holocaust and acted in various ways to save thousands of Jews. After the war he did everything he could to influence Catholic countries to support the establishment of the State of Israel. Upon his ascent to the papacy in 1958, when he chose the name John XXIII, he took it with the words: “I am Joseph your brother” (in the words of the biblical Joseph to his brothers in Egypt; Giuseppe is Joseph in Italian).

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