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December 22, 2023
CIRCA 1970: Photo of All In The Family Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

We give ourselves more credit than we’ve earned,

thinking we’re more advanced than actually we are.

From the past we’ve very little learned:

we’ve marred the future where we’d hoped that we would star,

 

unable from our status quo to steer,

to static we’d created making no objection,

our eyes fixed on the mirror to the rear

not correcting, as required, the direction  

 

 

we should have known we really should have taken,

poorly informed before we crossed the double line,

sleep-driving while unwilling to awaken.

Meanwhile we kid ourselves that we need not confine

 

ourselves to rules, because we are inclined

to give ourselves more credit than we really should.

That is the story of all humankind,

and why most of its stories’ endings are not good.

 

“Those were the days,” we tend to say, reflecting

the fact we realize we’re suffering from ent-

ropy, a process in which those expecting

improvement are like those who run for President.

 

Envoi

I apologize to all of you, if comparable to a kochleffel I

have stirred you in a way that makes you more depressed

than you were till you read this. Only those who with the vanity of hevel lie,

as was protested by the Preacher, will contest

that we are in an oversalted soup today, where hate

for Jews arouses little protest, lacking any sell-by date.

 

 

Kochleffel is the Yiddish word for “cooking spoon,” and denotes a person who stirs up trouble; a meddler, busybody. Hevel is the Hebrew word which the King James version of Qohelet (Ecclesiastes) translates as “vanity.”

David Itzkoff (“Those Were the Days, Not Simple or All Sweet: Norman Lear’s Memoir, ‘Even This I Get to Experience,’” NYT, 10/5/14) wrote about Norman Lear:

For someone whose most enduring contribution to popular culture might be the image of a husband and wife sitting at a piano and singing about the good old days, Norman Lear is not particularly nostalgic.

He has spent the last 20 of his 92 years pondering a vow to tell his life story: not just the backstage tales from his popular sitcoms like “All in the Family,” “Maude,” “Good Times” and “The Jeffersons,” but also his account of how a Depression-era kid with a challenging childhood came to produce the button-pushing, boundary-breaking comedies that defined the 1970s and influenced future generations.

P. J. Grisar writes in the Jewish Journal, 12/6/23:

While most of his characters, from the bigoted Archie Bunker to the Black working-class Sanfords, weren’t Jewish, Lear always hinted at a Yiddishkeit in his outlook, and even in the name of his production company, “T.A.T. (Tukhes Afn Tish) Communications.”

T.A.T. is an acronym for “Tukhes Afn Tish,” a Yiddish term that means “bottom on the table.”  The fact that Norman Lear gave his company this name may explain why Michael Stivic (Meathead), who played the role of Archie and Edith Bunker’s son-in-law, used a Yiddish word, “kochleffel,” meaning “pot stirrer,” to describe the man whose Yiddish-labeled company enabled a famous fictional version of his life to flourish.

 

Ramban, interpreting Jacob’s words in Gen. 32:4 to his brother Esau as self- criticism for offenses he had committed against Esau, and as  translated by Chavel, writes:

In my opinion this too hints at the fact that we instigated our falling into the hand of Edom [Rome], for the Hasmonean kings during he period of the Second Temple entered into a covenant with the Romans [Maccabees 1:8], and some of them even went to Rome to seek an alliance. This was the cause of their falling into the hands of the Romans. This is mentioned in the words of our Rabbis [Avodah Zarah8b) and is well published in books [Josippon, see Ramban on Lev. 26:16].


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.

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