Gershon Hepner

Sabbath Is Like a Library

Light seemed naturally the word
God would say first; the second heaven,
dry land, surprisingly the third.
He named man on day six, but seven
became the climax of creation,
for on it He created rest,
sabbatically a confirmation
that once a week man may feel blessed.
On days of work man feels at sea––
the word on day three that was fourth––
and doesn’t know, in space-time free,
if he is going south or north.

Some hope God will not speak again,
resentful that they once were driven
from Paradise. Don’t say amen,
till Sabbath, when you’ll be forgiven,
since that’s the very day on which
He didn’t need to speak because
He left it for us as a niche
not for “what will be” but for “was.”

According to what’s thought by many,
He’s kept his silence as if dead,
all of his words—if there’ve been any—
just in librarial silence read,
forbidding work on Sabbath just
as in a library is noise,
abstinence from it thus a must,
establishing an equipoise
between the Sabbath and the week
comparable to one between
a library and where some seek
and find what we from books should glean.

Inspired by lines from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Book of Hours:

Dein allererstes Wort war: Licht:
da ward die Zeit. Dann schwiegst du lange.
Dein zweites Wort war Mensch und bange
(wie dunkeln noch in seinem Klange)
Und wieder sinnt dein Angesicht.
Ich aber will dein drittes nicht.

Your very first word was light,

and time began. Then for long you were silent.
Your second word was Man, and fear began,
darkening still with its sound.
Are you about to face it again?
However, I don’t want your third word

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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