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Amichai's Counter-Theology: Opening Open Closed Open.

ON THE COVER OF OPEN CLOSED OPEN, YEHUNDA AMICAHI'S new collection of poems, there is a fragment of a broken gravestone with the word "Amen" carved on it. The stone, from a Jewish cemetery destroyed nearly a thousand years ago in his birthplace, Wurzburg, Germany, was given to Amichai by a German professor of theology who has devoted himself to reassembling the broken pieces and reconstructing the gravestones. That "toy of history and fate" is now a decorative object on his writing desk, "a thing of beauty, weighing down papers so they won't fly away." Five poems referring to the Amen stone are situated at intervals throughout the volume, and other poems conclude with Amen (a secular Amen, to be sure) or incorporate bits of prayer. These poems suggest the nature of Amichai's project in Open Closed Open, a book that gathers up the broken pieces of personal and Jewish history. Like the German professor, Amichai is engaged in the exacting work of recovery, though his object is not to make the pieces "whole agai n, once again." He refuses to restore the fragments of history and memory to a spurious wholeness, just as he resists the temptation to look back on the past with the sweet gaze of Jewish nostalgia. "Child's play," he calls this kind of verbal jigsawing, with a self-deflating irony.

Composed over nearly a decade, Open Closed Open is the ripe work of the poet in his sixties and seventies-without doubt his magnum opus. Writing at the peak of his powers, and increasingly conscious of his role as a mediator of cultural memory, Amichai pieces together from an intense and strenuously-lived life a poetic biography of our time. As in his earlier books, he writes about language and love, sexuality and mortality, war and memory, Jerusalem and Jewish history. He continues to argue with a God he stopped believing in long ago, and to wrestle with the traditional texts of his Orthodox Jewish upbringing, elevating the mundane and naturalizing the divine in a tone at once playful and dead-serious. He rewrites the biblical tales, inventing a third son for Abraham, conflating Jacob's two wives into one Racheleah, and imagining Moses putting together a police sketch of the face of God. Amichai's upending of traditional meanings, in its deliberate contrariness, is very Jewish: "But it could also be the oth er way around," he contends in the manner of Talmudic argument and counter-argument. At the same time, his need to question the permanence of any one truth, except when it takes the form of paradox and contradiction, is typically modem. In a world where "Change is God," the only absolute in Amichai's lexicon is le-hefekh, le-hefekh, "vice versa."

Open Closed Open registers the pressures of living between a rock and a hard place:

Jewish history and world history

grind me between them like two grindstones, sometimes

to a powder.

"I Wasn't One of the Six Million," #6

To live by the Jewish calendar is to be caught between yet another set of grindstones, to be always looking ahead or looking back, never simply resting in the moment:

Between the eve of the holiday and the final day

the holiday itself gets squeezed, between

longing for the past and longing for the future

the spirit is ground up as if by two heavy millstones,

upper and nether.

"I Foretell the Days of Yore," #7

Yet Amichai does not succumb to bitterness, nor does he assume the classic Jewish postures of pathos or lament; his matter-of-fact directness is enlivened, dependably, by a saving wit. And his credo (ha-ani ha-lo ma' amin sheli) remains an anti-credo-"my post-cynical humanism," he calls it--a sober exuberance about whatever is human, life-size, embodied:

That's the way to live: to stick your hand into the world's

infinite outside, turn the outside inside out,

"My Son Was Drafted," #7

the world into a room and God into a little soul

inside the infinite body.

The reader familiar with Amichai's body of work will recognize the many allusions to his earlier poetry as well as to his fiction. At the same time, although it resonates with the rest of his oeuvre, Open Closed Open introduces new perspectives, a new urgency. Amichai's desire to understand the feminine, both in women and in himself, takes a bold turn in this book, especially when he writes about the exclusion of women from traditional Jewish practice. He regards the Orthodox Jewish women of his childhood synagogue, segregated behind the mechitza, as teachers of authentic emotion, and the mechitza itself as a barrier stultifying to both women and men:

I studied love in my childhood in my childhood synagogue

in the women's section with the help of the women behind the partition

that locked up my mother with all the other women and girls.

But the partition that locked them up locked me up

on the other side. They were free in their love while I remained

locked up with all the men and boys in my love, my longing.

I wanted to be there with them and to know their secrets

and say with them, "Blessed be He who has made me

according to His will." And the partition-

a lace curtain white and soft as summer dresses, swaying

on its rings and loops of wish and would, lu-lu loops,

lullings of love in the locked room.

"Gods Change, Prayers Are Here to Stay," #21

Throughout Open Closed Open, women are the bearers of a special wisdom, keepers-of-the-code for the language of love. They mediate between past and future, life and death, knowing both the danger and the privilege of that in-between state, and they have a thing or two to teach God Himself: that true mercy "is born of the womb, true mercy, / true womb, true love, true grace" ("In My Life, On My Life," #13).

The notion of Otherness is new in Amichai's poetic vocabulary; he explores both its positive and negative valences, drawing on the multiple meanings of acher, "other," in Jewish tradition. Empathy with the Other allows him to write "Otherness is love," "Otherness is God." But as with all the aphoristic assertions that pepper the book, these statements are subject to reversal; hence "Otherness is Death," "Otherness killed Ruth" (his childhood love, who died in a Nazi death camp). "Otherness" thus becomes a coded reference to the Shoah, a subject that till now Amichal has attempted mainly in his fiction. By naming Otherness as the killer, he relates the Shoah, often seen in strictly Jewish terms, to universal concerns about persecution and intolerance of difference. At the same time, unlike the history-mongers and the professional Holocausters--the phrase sho'an mikiso'i, in Hebrew and English, is Amichai's own barbed neologism--he is adamant in his refusal to make capital of the Shoah:

I wasn't one of the six million who died in the Shoah,

I wasn't even among the survivors.

"I Wasn't One of the Six Million," #6

Death looms large in this collection, informing Amichai's meditations on his personal trajectory and the Jewish journey through time and space. Now, when he can "hear the circles of [his] life closing," he chronicles with greater urgency than ever, the practical business of looking back and finding connections, making a life cohere. "Things that were lost long ago find their places now," he writes:

I come upon the missing lids of pots and pans that stayed uncovered,

I find the matching pieces, like an ancient contract of clay

broken into two parts, unequal but fitting together.

Like a mosaic, like a jigsaw puzzle, children searching

for the missing pieces. When the game is over,

the picture will he whole. Complete.

"In My Life, on My Life, "#11

The Jewish practice of summing up a life in moral terms is traditionally referred to in Hebrew as cheskbon ha-nefesh, an "arithmetic of the soul." Amichai revitalizes the lofty poetic metaphor of the "Book of Life" by taking it literally, turning it into a child's math textbook:

Now I've reached

the final pages with the answers.

Back then it was forbidden to look.

Now it is permitted. Now I check

where I was right and where I went wrong,

and know what I did well and what I did not do. Amen.

"Israeli Travel, "#6

In other poems, the personal arithmetic is inseparable from the historical or political:

I want to live until all the numbers are sacred,

not just one not just seven not just twelve not just three

but all the numbers, the twenty-three fallen in the battle of Huleikat...

(and the number of the years of my life still X).

"Once I Wrote Now and in Other Days, "#8

Often sardonic, sometimes aghast, in a voice that moves between mischief and rage, tenderness and irony, Amichai wrests a poetry from the horrific "smoke-and-mirror halls of time."

Open Closed Open differs strikingly from Amichai's earlier work also in its densely-wrought structure. The most deliberately ordered of all his collections, this book displays his mastery of a variety of genres-narrative and lyric poems, elegies, travelogues, epigrams, philosophical meditations, secular midrashim, blasphemous commentary, and iconoclastic prayers. Poems

identified by number rather than title are linked in a series of associative sequences that build to a sustained climax, each one standing on its own while forming part of a polyphonic whole. Mood and tempo keep shifting as the poems move between the personal and the collective, the Jewish and the universal. Refrains and key words echo throughout the work, sparking tensions and dissonances as the poems argue with one another.

Among those key words are the "open" and "closed" of the book's enigmatic title, which allude to a Talmudic mashal or parable, worth including:

Unto what may the fetus in its mother's womb be likened? Unto a notebook

that is folded up. Its hands rest on its temples, elbows on thighs, heels against

buttocks, its head lies between its knees. Its mouth is closed and its navel

open.... When it comes forth into the air of the world, what is closed opens

and what is open closes. [1]

Amichai represents life as a temporary closure between two open-ended states, a brief interim between two infinities:

Open closed open. Before we are born, everything is open

in the universe without us. For as long as we live, everything is closed

within us. And when we die, everything is open again.

Open closed open. That's all we are.

"I Wasn't One of the Six Million," #4

But he doesn't simply reverse common wisdom, equating "open" with death and "closed" with life. His key concepts are always unstable and multivalent, accumulating a wide variety of meanings in the course of the book, some

deliberately inconsistent. The "open" and the "closed" alternate as emblems of creative power:

I thought about the power of dammed-up water

and the power of water falling in a torrent,

the power of weeping and the power of restraint,

the power of a woman's hair pulled back like a dancer's

and the power of a woman's hair bursting free and open like a dancer's.

"Israeli Travel," #10

God, too, is not simply "like a door that opens out," but rather "like a revolving door that turns, turns on its hinges, in and out," whirling and turning like the wind in Ecclesiastes.

Amichai's resistance to all forms of fixed order often finds expression in a deflating of ceremonial religious practice:

I go against the tide of pilgrims parading in the Old City,

brush by them, rub up against them, feel the weave of their clothes,

breathe in their smell, hear their talk and their song....

I go against the longings and the prayers

to feel their warm breath on my face,

the buzz and rustle of the stuff of longing and prayer.

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Why Jerusalem?" #19

Going in the opposite direction is not only an ideological stance, but also a way of making contact with the material reality of the longings that are always stirring beneath the prescribed orthodoxies.

Sometimes all that Amichai can rescue from his Orthodox childhood are the sensual textures of memory. In a poem about his childhood synagogue, he likens the Torah scrolls to women, and the memory of that oh-so-sensual contact leads naturally to a meditation on time and mortality:

And we dress the rolled-up Torah scrolls in silken petticoats

and gowns of embroidered velvet

held up by narrow shoulder straps.

And we kiss them as they are passed around the synagogue,

stroking them as they pass, as they pass,

as we pass.

"Gods Change, Prayers Are Here to Stay," #22

The comfort and pleasure he felt as a child when he wrapped himself in a tallis [2] he describes with an innocent eroticism, childlike and quasi-sexual, evoking

here too the tactile memory of cocooning, of cuddling up. Now, as an adult, the speaker performs the same gesture with beach towel in hand, and the body remembers. For Amichai only the sensual and the palpable have staying power. Pronouncing "tallis" and "beach towel" in the same breath is a form of sacrilege, to be sure; an observant Jew would hasten to say le-havdil to separate the sacred from the profane, but Amichai enjoys transgressing such boundaries. Here he is proposing not a new hierarchy of towel-and-tails but an equivalence. To him the one is not more holy than the other; rather, the sensual pleasure in itself is holy.

Poetry on religious subjects is often sober and decorous or ecstatic; Amichai's however, is typically playful, mischievous, irreverent, just this side of blasphemy. It is therefore surprising that, outside of Israel, he tends to be read as a card-carrying religious poet. Or perhaps not so surprising: for all his iconoclasm, he consistently grapples with issues that believers face, and he uses the vocabulary of belief to do so. Yet Amichai is by no means the sweet singer of Israel that is packaged and sold in America. Many English readers remain unaware of the ironic tone and critical edge in his use of religious discourse, both of which would be immediately apparent to an Israeli audience. Amichai's quarrel with God has the feel of a family argument, with intimate love and old anger forever tangled together. The God of his disbelief is literally, biographically, the God of his father. He casts his flesh-and-blood father as a new and improved version of the storm god of Mount Sinai, a new god whose commandmen ts were given "not in thunder and not in anger, / not in fire and not in a cloud, but gently / and with love" ("My Parents' Lodging Place," #4). And Avinu Malkenu is exposed as a derelict father, a conniving monarch:

"Our Father, Our King." What does a father do

when his children are orphans and he

is still alive? ... What does a king do

in the republic of pain? Give them

bread and circuses like any king.

"Gods Change, Prayers Are Here to Stay," #7

The poems just quoted come from a sequence called "Gods Change, Prayers are Here to Stay." Here Amichai for the first time characterizes the long-standing argument with the Jewish God in his poetry as a theology of sorts. The entire sequence in fact amounts to a counter-theology--a critique of monotheism, the idea of chosenness, and Jewish religious practice.

Amichai starts by suggesting that Zionism is no substitute for a theology, though Israel has come to replace God in the modern Jewish imagination. Punning on Herzl's first name, Theodore, Amichai takes a quick swipe at the subject, portraying the Father of Zionism as a child called home from the scrappy playground of young European nation-states:

Theo, Theo, come home Theo,

don't stay there with the bad boys,

Theo, Theo, lo! Gee.

"Gods Change, Prayers Are Here to Stay," #2

When Amichai turns his gaze on the Jewish God, his counter-theology is provoked by the bare stripped abstraction of monotheism:

I don't want an invisible god. I want a god who is seen

but doesn't see, so I can lead him around

and tell him what he doesn't see.

"Gods Change, Prayers Are Here to Stay," #2

Why, he asks, can't the Jewish God be more like a Jew?

The God of the Christians is a Jew, a bit of a whiner,

and the God of the Muslims is an Arab Jew from the desert, a bit hoarse.

Only the God of the Jews isn't Jewish.

The way Herod the Edomite was brought in to be king of the Jews,

so God was brought back from the infinite future,

an abstract God: neither painting nor graven image nor tree nor stone.

"Gods Change, Prayers Are Here to Stay," #8

It was paganism, of course, that was mocked by the prophets and rabbis as the worship of trees and stones. The much-touted triumph of monotheism, however, is by no means an unequivocal gain for Amichai. For one thing, it koshers and salts all the blood-life out of Jewish living. For another, it robs Jewish culture of the richness of visual art, and leads to an impoverished relationship with the natural world as well:

Jewish travel. As it is written, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,

from whence cometh my help": not a hike to see a tall mountain in

all its glory,

not a climb to rejoice in the vistas of Nature,

but a hike with a purpose, to seek help from the high heavens.

"Jewish Travel," #1

In a wry pastiche of traditional exegesis, Amichai takes on the rabbinic anxiety about nature as alien, goyish, a seduction. (One thinks of the Talmudic caveat against stopping to admire the beauty of a tree--" Mah na'eh lian zeh"--as a distraction from the study of the sacred text, indeed, as a remnant of pagan worship.) Amichai also pokes fun at the Diaspora Jewish obsession with takhlis, "practical results." A Jew climbs a mountain not simply because it's there, but "with a purpose," as if nature had no value for its own sake but were only a conduit to Whence-cometh-my-help.

What Amichai wishes to preserve of the tradition is the text itself, which for him always has a physical presence--palpable and pliable. And what he loves in the text are the tensions, the gaps and contradictions that demand attention and interpretation. This is one area in which he agrees with the rabbis, seeing the culture of commentary as a living process of shaping and reshaping the meaning of Torah. His provocative parodies of rabbinic genres such as exegesis, law, midrash, and prayer have the effect of reviving ossified modes of thought.

Open Closed Open presents several neo-midrashim on familiar biblical characters like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David. A number of poems revisit the Binding of Isaac, the major topos of martyrological self-perception in Jewish culture, which has by now become a clich[acute{e}] for all seasons in Israel. Amichai tweaks the cich[acute{e}] in "Thee Sons Had Abraham," undercutting the standard-issue pathos with humor. There is an enormous body of liturgical, midrashic, and secular literature on the Binding of Isaac, from the genre of piyyut called Akedah to post-Shoah poetry, in which Isaac was actually sacrificed, as well as an Islamic tradition in which Yishmael was sacrificed. [3] By the same logic, Amichai invents a third son for Abraham and names him "Yivkeh" ("he will cry"): "No one has ever heard of Yivkeh, for he was the youngest, / the son that Father loved best, / the son who was offered up on Mount Moriah." Here Amichai follows the Jewish tradition that associates promise with jeopardy: the chosen one is always in the greatest danger. The poem takes the form of midrash shemot, those after-the-fact etymologies that purport to explain the meaning of names. Amichai plays on the meaning of all three names. Yishmael is the only one whose name includes El, "God"; the other two have El added in the last line of the poem, following the biblical tradition of renaming. [4] And Yivkeh is the only one who truly lives up to his name--by dying.

Ultimately, the textual tradition to which Open Closed Open gives greatest prominence is tefillah--prayer or liturgical poetry. But it is the human form of prayerful address rather than the figure of God that Amichai invests with sanctity:

I declare with perfect faith

that prayer preceded God.

Prayer created God,

God created human beings,

human beings create prayers

that create the God that creates human beings.

"Gods Change, Prayers Are Here to Stay," #3

Open Closed Open concludes with the most unsettling of the Amen poems, "The Jewish Time Bomb," a catalogue of relics holy and unholy that gathers force and rage as it proceeds:

On my desk is a stone with "Amen" carved on it, one survivor fragment

of the thousands upon thousands of bits of broken tombstones

in Jewish graveyards. I know all these broken pieces

now fill the great Jewish time bomb

along with the other fragments and shrapnel, broken Tablets of the Law

broken altars broken crosses rusty crucifixion nails

broken houseware and holyware and broken bones

eyeglasses shoes prostheses false teeth

empty cans of lethal poison.

In an early ars poetica, Amichai writes about

a stone as it almost stops rolling

down the steep hill, in the place

where the plain of great renunciation begins,

from which, like prayers that are answered,

dust rises in many myriads of grains.

"Not Like a Cypress"

The latest gilgul of this stone is the bit of shattered gravestone on his desk, that "survivor fragment" rescued from the killing fields of history. Contemplating the Amen stone, Amichai is able, by the end of the book, to reach a still point beyond blame and complaint. With this broken "Amen" he constructs a response to the forces of death and mass destruction-a response made possible by the human capacity for language, the one transcendence he believes in. For Amichai, the only true prayer is poetry:

And though I know about all this, and about the end of days,

the stone on my desk gives me peace.

It is the touchstone no one touches, more philosophical than any philosopher's stone, broken stone from a broken tomb more whole than any wholeness, a stone of witness to what has always been and what will always be, a stone of amen and love. Amen, amen, and may it come to pass. [5]

CHANA BLOCH, Director of the Creative Writing Program at Mills College, is the author of Mrs. Dumpty and co-translator of The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai and The Song of Songs. CHANA KRONFELD, Associate Professor in the Departments of Near Eastern Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of California at Berkeley, is the author of On the Margins of Modernism, which deals in part with Amichai. Block and Kronfeld were awarded an NEA Fellowship and a Marie Syrkin Fellowship for their translation of Open Closed Open. YEHUDA AMICHAI is Israel's leading poet and a literary figure of international stature; his work has been translated into 37 languages. The English translation of Open Closed Open, his magnum opus, was published by Harcourt this year, and the poetry excerpts are published with their permission.


(1.) Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Niddah, chapter 3, folio 30a. A variant appears in Leviticus Rabbah 14:8. In "I Foretell the Days of Yore," #11, the language of the Midrashic parable is used to express our innate awareness of human mutability: "Ever since I sat folded up in my mother's belly, I have carried inside me the wisdom of the folding chair."

(2.) "Tallis" is the familiar Ashkenazi pronunciation that Amichai used as a child in Germany. Since the poem summons up a childhood memory, we chose that form over "tallit," the pronunciation in Israeli Hebrew.

(3.) Shalom Spiegel, The Last Trial, new ed. (Jewish Lights, 1993 [reprint of Schocken, 1967]). For the Islamic tradition, see pages xiv-xv of the Introduction.

(4.) Abraham and Sarah (formerly Abram and Sarai) have the "h" from Yahweh added to their names when they are chosen by God.

(5.) For their incisive criticism of an earlier version of this essay, we wish to thank Amichai Kronfeld and Naomi Seidman.


from Open Closed Open

The Amen Stone

On my desk there is a stone with the word "Amen" on it, a triangular fragment of stone from a Jewish graveyard destroyed many generations ago. The other fragments, hundreds upon hundreds, were scattered helter-skelter, and a great yearning, a longing without end, fills them all: first name in search of family name, date of death seeks dead man's birthplace, son's name wishes to locate name of father, date of birth seeks reunion with soul that wishes to rest in peace. And until they have found one another, they will not find perfect rest. Only this stone lies calmly on my desk and says "Amen." But now the fragments are gathered up in lovingkindness by a sad good man. He cleanses them of every blemish, photographs them one by one, arranges them on the floor in the great hall, makes each gravestone whole again, one again: fragment to fragment, like the resurrection of the dead, a mosaic, a jigsaw puzzle. Child's play.

from Gods Change, Prayers are Here to Stay


Jewish theology, Theo, Theo. When I was young I knew a boy named Theodore, as in Herzl, but his mother called him home from the playground: Theo, Theo, come home Theo, don't stay there with the bad boys, Theo, Theo, lo! Gee.

I don't want an invisible god. I want a god who is seen but doesn't see, so I can lead him around and tell him what he doesn't see. And I want a god who sees and is seen. I want to see how he covers his eyes, like a child playing blindman's bluff.

I want a god who is like a window I can open

so I'll see the sky even when I'm inside.

I want a god who is like a door that opens out, not in,

but God is like a revolving door, which turns, turns on its hinges

in and out, whirling arid turning

without a beginning, without an end.


I declare with perfect faith

that prayer preceded God.

Prayer created God.

God created human beings,

human beings create prayers

that create the God that creates human beings.


The God of the Christians is a Jew, a bit of a whiner,

and the God of the Muslims is an Arab Jew from the desert, a bit hoarse.

Only the God of the Jews isn't Jewish.

The way Herod the Edomite was brought in to be king of the Jews,

so God was brought back from the infinite future,

an abstract God: neither painting nor graven image nor tree nor stone.


Whoever put on a tallis when he was young will never forget:

taking it out of the soft velvet bag, opening the folded shawl,

spreading it out, kissing the length of the neckband (embroidered

or trimmed in gold). Then swinging it in a great swoop overhead

like a sky, a wedding canopy, a parachute. And then winding it

around his head as in hide-and-seek, wrapping

his whole body in it, close and slow, snuggling into it like the cocoon

of a butterfly, then opening would-be wings to fly.

And why is the tallis striped and not checkered black-and-white

like a chessboard? Because squares are finite and hopeless.

Stripes come from infinity and to infinity they go

like airport runway where angels land and take off.

Whoever has put on a tallis will never forget.

When he comes out of a swimming pool or the sea,

he wraps himself in a large towel, spreads it out again

over his head, and again snuggles into it close and slow,

still shivering a little, and he laughs and blesses.


I studied love in the synagogue of my childhood,

I sang "Come, O Sabbath bride" on Friday nights

with a bridegroom's fever, I practiced longing for the days of the Messiah,

I conducted yearning drills for the days of yore that will not return.

The cantor serenades his love out of the depths,

Kaddish is recited over lovers who remain together,

the male bird dresses up in a blaze of color.

And we dress the rolled-up Torah scrolls in silken petticoats

and gowns of embroidered velvet

held up by narrow shoulder straps.

And we kiss them as they are passed around the synagogue,

stroking them as they pass, as they pass,

as we pass.

from My Parents' Lodging Place


My father was God and didn't know it. He gave me

the Ten Commandments not in thunder and not in anger,

not in fire and not in a cloud, but gently

and with love. He added caresses and tender words,

"would you" and "please." And chanted "remember" and "keep"

with the same tune, and pleaded and wept quietly

between one commandment and the next: Thou shalt not

take the name of thy Lord in vain, shalt not take, not in vain,

please don't bear false witness against your neighbor.

And he hugged me tight and whispered in my ear,

Thou shalt not steal, shalt not commit adultery, shalt not kill.

And he lay the palms of his wide-open hands on my head

with the Yom Kippur blessing: Honor, love, that thy days

may be long upon this earth. And the voice of my father--

white as his hair. Later, he turned his face to me for the last time,

as on the day he died in my arms, and said, I would like to add

two more commandments:

the Eleventh Commandment, "Thou shalt not change,"

and the Twelfth Commandment, "Thou shalt change. You will change."

Thus spoke my father, and turned and walked away

and disappeared into his strange distances.

from The Bible and You, the Bible and You, and Other Midrashim


Three Sons had Abraham, not just two.

Three sons had Abraham: Yishma-EI, Yitzhak and Yivkeh.

First came Yishma-El, "God will hear,"

next came Yitzhak, "he will laugh,"

and the last was Yivkeh, "he will cry."

No one has ever heard of Yivkeh, for he was the youngest,

the Son that Father loved best,

the son who was offered up on Mount Moriah.

Yishma-El was saved by his mother, Hagar,

Yitzhak was saved by the angel,

but Yivkeh nobody saved.

When he was just a little boy, his father

would call him tenderly, Yivkeh,

Yivkeleh, my sweet little Yivkie-

but he sacrificed him all the same.

The Torah says the ram, but it was Yivkeh.

Yishma-El never heard from God again,

Yitzhak never laughed again,

Sarah laughed only once, then laughed no more.

Three sons had Abraham,

Yishma, "will hear," Yitzhak, "will laugh," Yivkeh, "will cry."

Yishma-El, Yitzhak-El, Yivkeh-El,

God will hear, God will laugh, God will cry.
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Title Annotation:Yehunda Amicahi
Publication:Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought
Geographic Code:00WOR
Date:Mar 22, 2000
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