If Kosher Ifs and Ans Were Pots and Pans

June 10, 2024
Cemile Bingol/Getty Images

If ifs and ans were pots and pans

we might of pol. sci. men be sans,

and were there for “perhaps” an app,

who’d need a Middle Eastern map?


If there were two states would there be

for Israelis and all non-

Israelis a solution we might see

except through barrels of a gun?


In Hebrew “if” is im, beginning

with aleph, ending with a mem.

If Jews miraculously stopped sinning

the world would still them all condemn.


Although im’s letters are the first

of “Aaron” and of “Moses,” they

predict we can’t prevent the worst

from “ifs,” though for the best we pray,


the benefit of doubt not given

for problems that we are accused

of having caused, and unforgiven

when certainly —- not if! —- accused.


Keeping pots and pans quite kosher

is easier than preventing views,

that cross right lines or left ones, gaucher,

from harming —- not perhaps —- the Jews.


In “A Rabbi’s Commentary and Contemplation, 5/30/24, Behuqotai – The Magic of “If,” Rabbi David Wolpe writes:

Mark Twain, whose manuscripts are nearly illegible due to all the changes and revisions, once wrote, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter, ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

For a word to be lightning, it does not need to be long. In this week’s Torah portion, the 19th century sage, Mei Hashiloah, Rabbi Mordecai Yosef of Izhbitza, focuses on two letters: the word “if,” which begins the portion: “If you walk in my ways.” (Leviticus 26:3) He explains that “if” signals the uncertainty of one who seeks to follow God’s ways, for “the will of God is very deep.”

The more we explore “if,” the more lightning we find in the word. “If” in Hebrew is im and contains all possibility in it. “If this had happened.” “If that had not happened.” “If I had said this.” “If I had not said that.” But the word im contains an even greater power in Jewish history.

Im” is spelled aleph mem. The Mincha Belulah (16th century) teaches that in liberation, there was an im – an if. The name Aaron begins with an aleph and Moses with a mem. So too with Purim: Esther begins with an aleph and Mordecai with a mem. Finally, Eliyahu, the herald of the end times, begins with an aleph and Moshiach, the Messiah, begins with a mem. The aleph and mem of im carry within them past and future redemption.

Unfortunately, Israel is hardly ever given the benefit of the doubt for problems caused in im situations. Since October 7, 2023, such  situations more typically lead to the condemnation of Jews than to their redemption.

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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