This is the penultimate lecture in this series on Jewish cultural history, my third course for Juice. Doing these courses has become one of the highlights of my week. If students do file their nails or take phone calls during them, I don't see or hear it. Likewise on my part I can deliver a lecture without getting washed or dressed. The questions, comments, and criticisms I receive are fascinating for me. And I enjoy the virtual office hours and the continued visits of students to Jerusalem. Before concluding the course, I would like to thank the course director Rabbi Sidney Slivko for all his support during the semester editing, organizing distribution and redistribution of the lectures, and for fielding questions directed to him. I would also like to thank the many students around the world whose weekly comments, questions, and criticisms added so much to my understanding of the material.
There was not too much comment about the lecture on medieval Hebrew poetry, perhaps because for many the issue of cultural borrowing is less troublesome when the discussion does not involve matters such as the prayers, or perhaps people were more caught up with other matters such as the elections here.
In the last lecture I forgot to mention that fact that many bilingual editions of medieval Hebrew poetry have been published, making the material accessible for those with all levels of Hebrew skills. One of the best is by a former teacher, Raymond Scheindlin, Wine, Women, and Death; others include specific works devoted to Judah Halevi, Solomon ibn Gabirol, Samuel ibn Nagrela, and Judah al-harizi. Two of the more thorough histories of Jewish literature are those by Meyer Waxman and Israel Zinberg. As always, on most matters, the Encyclopaedia Judaica, now available on CD-ROM, is not only a reliable source of information but of further bibliography (up to date as of about 1970). For a comparison with the Arabic forms of this period, see James' Kritzeck's Anthology of Islamic Literature.
In the course of this semester at various times I promised a few units which I did not deliver because of a lack of time. I will be pulling these together with other related topics to a coherent course, as coherent as I can deliver, next semester on Juice. It will probably be called something like Jewish Social History and it will use cultural documents for social history. Although I have continually cast aspersions on the positivistic approach to reading these texts for historical data, nevertheless, I believe that they can be a source for understanding Jewish mentalities, discourse, and the development of ideas. Some of the topics I will cover involve gender, family, childhood, women, self, communal control, punishment, violence, the rodef and moser, death, chosen death, and attitudes towards non-Jews, particularly the seven nations (amamin) of Palestine, especially as reflected in current discourse, including two controversial books Barukh Hagever and Hamoro Shel Mashiah. In addition, I will be working with several degree granting institutions giving on-line courses for credit.
This week's presentation is on modern Hebrew poetry. Before beginning, while the pile of books is still in front of me and I don't forget, let me mention some basic sources for further reading, especially bilingual reading. In addition to all the materials in T. Carmi's Penguin Anthology of Hebrew Poetry, which will be my source here, The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself talks the reader through many works, even those who cannot read Hebrew, but many in aesthetic terms. One of the classic introductions to modern Hebrew literature is Hebrew Reborn by Shalom Spiegel, whose work on the Akeddah I mentioned earlier in the semester. There are many bilingual anthologies, such as Ruth Finer Mintz's as well as many translations. Finally, one very important resource is Yohai Goell's Bibliography of Modern Hebrew Literature in English Translation. In this work it is possible to locate where every translation of modern Hebrew works, prose and poetry, were published (prior to 1968).
Modern Hebrew poetry represents a culmination of the development of the richness of Jewish culture. By virtue of its being written in Hebrew it resonates, whether its authors wanted to or not, all the stages in the development of Hebrew literature. In addition, it reflects the century of developments from the 1880s with Yehudah Leib Gordon's Nietzchean reactions until recent Israeli creations. The historical background includes reactions to pogroms in Russia, settlement in Palestine, the Holocaust, the creation of Israel, and the attendant issues in Israeli life, with themes including emerging individualism, changing landscapes, alienation, sexuality and sexism, and the changing role of spoken Hebrew, including the change from the Ashkenazic to the Sephardic accent.. I will focus on in particular is the way in which Jewish and general culture is transferred and transformed in modern Hebrew poetry. These developments are summarized well in Carmi, pp. 40-50.
Hayim Nahman Bialik (1873-1934) was the commanding figure in the revival of Hebrew poetry, moving from eastern Europe, to Odessa (1892), to Berlin (1917), to Tel Aviv (1921). Most accounts of Bialik's poetry focus on his childhood: life in the forest, orphaned, raised by a stern grandfather, a tavern keeper, who provided him with a traditional Jewish education. Studying at the Volozhin Yeshivah, the flagship of traditional Talmud study in Russia, and imbued with the spirit of nature, he fused both Jewish tradition with a rediscovery of nature. Bialik's literary career is divided into several periods: 1) 1891-1900, national themes, concern for the plight of his people, the most common word he used was tear, during this period he composed Hamatmid, an ode to the perpetual Talmud student, 2) 1900-1905, the height of his poetic powers, he treated themes of childhood and nature, paying especial attention to light. It was during this period that he also wrote strong nationalist reactions to the pogroms in eastern Europe. 3) 1905-1934, retreat and silence, a period of disillusionment, brooding about death and his people's weakness, a general sense of futility (see Carmi, p. 515, "My Soul Has Sunk Down." He broke his silence a few times, but rarely after he arrived in Palestine where he spend most of his efforts editing classics of rabbinic literature (Sefer Aggadah) and inspiring Jewish construction crews, especially in Beit Hakerem.
It should be noted that the selections in Carmi barely do Bialik justice. "At Twilight," (1902, Carmi, p. 509) reflects Bialik at the height of his poetic powers. The poem is filled with terms for light, descriptions of beautiful landscapes, a couple in love, and ultimately turning to themes of yearning for a homeland and national alienation, all in one short poem! These themes also appear in "From the Winter Song," (1902, Carmi, p. 510), but with the added dimension of a description of God, the brutal force behind a frigid winter, making nature much more hostile in this poem.
Bialik's rage against God pours out in "On the Slaughter," (Carmi, p. 512, 1903), one of his reactions to the pogroms of Russia. Here he casts doubts about the existence of God, the efficacy of prayer, the presence of justice, and the futility of calls for vengeance. The poem is filled with the blood of the victims, presenting a challenge to traditional Jewish belief in God's saving powers.
"It was a summer evening" mixes many traditional Jewish images: the daughters of Lilith, the legendary first wife of the biblical Adam. However, contrary to the legend which depicts Lilith as a source of impurity, her daughters here are pure. Like other women in Jewish lore, they are spinning garments by the moonlight. These, however, are not only for a swineherd, but for high priests, sustaining even in what is essentially a poem laced with subtle promiscuity and sexuality, continued interest in Temple sacrifice (Carmi, p. 19, 1908).
Bialik went on to write many classic Hebrew children's songs, established a very profitable Hebrew publishing empire, and built a fabulous house in Tel Aviv which was a center for intellectuals during the twenties. He had plans to build another house in Jerusalem, but died in Vienna during heart surgery. The lot on which he planned to build is now a park named in his honor on the street named for him.
Saul Tchernichowsky's (1875-1943) contributions to modern Hebrew poetry and Jewish culture complemented those of Bialik making the two of them the guiding figures at the turn of the century. Tchernichowsky was born in Russia where he enjoyed village life and rural landscapes rather than a traditional Jewish education. Like Bialik he too spent time in Odessa. From 1890-1899 he received a secondary education there in German, French, English, Greek, and Latin and studied the leading poets of Europe, including Pushkin, Goethe, Heine, Shakespeare, Byron, Burns, and Longfellow. At this time he also became interested in Zionism and socialism and wrote his first Hebrew poems. His early poems were both complex rhythmically and critical of diasporan Jewry. From 1899-1906 he studied medicine in Heidelberg and Luasanne and wrote long poetic epics and ballads, reflecting both Jewish history, nature, paganism, and a call for a transvaluation of Jewish values. One of his most revealing works of this period is "Before the Statue of Apollo," a paean to both ancient Hebrew as well as Greek might. In answer to the question he posed to Apollo of what happened to the ancient Hebrew God of might and beauty, he answered that the Jews strangled him with a tefillin strap. >From 1906-1922 he wandered and suffered hardship in Russia. During this period he worked on translating many classics of world literature into Hebrew. From 1922-1931, unable to find work in Palestine (join the club!) he joined the Hebrew circle active in Germany, wrote Hebrew children's works, traveled in the US, and wrote Zionist poems (always easier far away). Indeed, most of Tchernichowski's poems about the land were inspired by German landscapes. From 1931-1943 he lived in Palestine and edited medical works. Like Bialik he too had trouble writing poetry in Palestine, but he also suffered economic and social difficulties. Tchernichowsky, like many subsequent Hebrew poets, was right wing in his politics, favoring Kol Yisrael Shelemah, the Greater Israel Movement, a movement which many pundits here have been exaggerating reports of its death this week.
Similarly, the collection in Carmi barely does Tchernichowski justice. "Eagle! Eagle Over you Mountains," (Carmi, p. 517) expresses many of the themes in Tchernichowski's work by describing the raw power in nature and the sinister forces in human history as well. I remember as an impressionable undergraduate hearing the professor, Stanley Nash, read the first line in Hebrew: "AyiT, AyiT, al harayikh, ayiT al harayikh af!" to show Tchernichowski's powerful language. The end of this poem, written in 1936, is puzzling if not paradoxical. Although he address the Land, when he says that there is an eagle with its massive shadow, one cannot help but thinking of the Nazi menace in Europe, which would lead the reader to the conclusion that for Tchernichowski the mountains of God were in fact in Germany and not in Palestine.
"The First Dead," written in 1942, ostensibly about the black death, seems to be an early, but muted response to the Holocaust of European Jewry. The poem, relying on the historical fact that because of the nature of plague cycles, Jews, living separately-but not yet in ghettos during the middle ages-did not suffer from the plague at the same time as the rest of the population. Since Jews appeared therefore to be healthy they were often accused of causing the plague. Tchernichowski's poem treats this phenomenon with great irony by having the Jews when they are finally smitten by the plague celebrating and thanking God so that they would not be blamed.
Avraham ben Yitzhak (1883-1950) in his small output reflects many of the features of eastern European Hebrew poets. Although he left Eastern Europe, and traveled twice in Palestine, he spent most of his life, and certainly his period of greatest creativity in Vienna and Berlin.. He moved to Israel in 1949 at the age of 56, and like other Hebrew poets produced no poetry there. Most of his work appeared before the first World War and the poem "Happy Are they who Sow," was written in 1928 after a twelve year silence. The "Happy are they" (Ashrey) format is borrowed from Pslams 126 which also appears regularly in the liturgy (later Hannah Senesh would use it in one of her famous poems). Here, however, the usage is paradoxical because it reverses the biblical texts and creates a feeling of sterility, uprootedness, and frustration.
The life of David Vogel (1891-1943) reflects that of his generation of east European Hebrew writers. He was born in Russia, traveled through Galicia, and settled in Vienna. Like so many Hebrew poets he could not settle permanently in Palestine, and after two years in Palestine from 1925-1927 he returned to Berlin and Paris. Eventually, he was caught and killed by the Nazis. Vogel's poetry evokes personal moods, both erotic and anxious. There seems to be little collective sense of Jewish destiny in them. "When Night Draws Near," (Carmi, p. 525) contains glimmers of eroticism without the silliness of medieval Hebrew writers. "My Childhood Cites" conveys a sense of personal loss and alienation.
Uri Zvi Greenberg (1897-1980) continues the pattern of east European Hebrew poets. He was born in Galicia to a Hasidic family, received a traditional Jewish education, passed through Warsaw and Berlin, wrote first in Yiddish, and settled in Palestine in 1924. There he worked as an editor and became involved in the Revisionist movement of Jabotinsky. From 1929-1939 he left Palestine to work for the movement in Warsaw. With the start of the war in Poland he returned to Palestine, worked with the Irgun, and with Israeli Independence served in the first Knesset. His poetry mixes European influence, personal pathos, biblical, and extremist Jewish national themes, in particular he offers the first Israeli response to the Holocaust. "With God, the Blacksmith," written in 1928 he reacts to the massacres of World War I in the extreme terms of a biblical prophet, though, like Bialik, also depicts God in harsh terms. The poems he wrote from 1939-1945 were collected in Rehovot Hanahar, The Streets of the River, published in 1951. "At the rim of the Heavens," (Carmi, p. 529) offers a veneration of the martyrs of the Holocaust period, purified by the water of the sea, they gather, with (Jewish?) stars in their mouths, perhaps in Israel. Other poems, mentioned already in this course, deal with the Akedah (p. 530). One mysterious poem, written in 1955, deals with a man who stepped out of his shoes, I suspect a description of a camp inmate who committed suicide against the electric fence (p. 532).
Abraham Shlonsky (1900-1973) was born in the Ukraine, studied for a while in Palestine, returned to Russia, and settled in Palestine in 1921, writing poetry and building roads. He studied for a while in Paris and then returned to Palestine to be the literary editor of major papers and journals. His poetry combines religious and modern Hebrew expressions together and speaks to the condition of the working pioneers in Palestine. In "Toil," (Carmi, p. 534) written in 1928 Shlonsky describes the modern land of Israel in religious terms: the land is wrapped in light as if it were a prayer shawl and the houses are like the boxes on the tefilin and the roads he paves are like the tefilin straps. While Tchernichowski saw tefilin as symbolic of the pernicious quality of rabbinic Judaism against the pristine and powerful nature of the biblical God, Shlonsky saw them as symbolizing the modern Jewish rebrith in the land. Here he identifies himself in the frame of reference of the biblical Abraham but also as a road-building poet (payytan). Shlonsky provides an ideal example of the transition from the pioneer period to the modern period. In "Thus saith so and so concerning his neighborhood," (Carmi, p. 536) Shlonsky uses powerful biblical expressions to describe the alienation of modern Israeli society in a somewhat mocking manner. After ascending to the level of biblical prophecy in the title, the rest of the poem describes the banality of modern city life: apartment buildings, bus routes, boredom, movie theatres, and a suicide. The suicide was done by a woman, usually not a vibrant presence in most of these works. The poem ends with wry irony, perhaps mocking small mindedness: "My apartment house is five stories high-the woman who jumped from the window across the way-only needed three."
Yokheved Bat-Miriam (1901-1980) is one of the few anthologized women poets of this period, though there were others (Rachel Blaustein, after whom a street in Jerusalem is named, is surprisingly missing from Carmi, and who is one of the major cult figures of modern Israel, see Susan Sered's recent article in the new journal called Nashim). Indeed her name is based on the name of her mother. She followed the route from a traditional Jewish family in Russia, to university in Odessa and Moscow, to Paris, to Palestine in 1929. She stopped writing poetry after the death of her son in the War of Independence in 1948. "Cranes from the Threshold," (p. 537) is addressed to an unnamed female, "you" in the second person. The usual interpretation is that the poem is addressed to the landscape that she left behind in Russia as a child. While such a view ties her in nicely with her male colleagues, it misses the possibility that she may have addressed her poem to a woman. The rest of the poem, however, can also be read as referring to a relationship between two women: the reference to sheaves suggests Naomi and Ruth; your quivering stammer is also addressed to a woman and does not seem to fit a land; the crying and breathing seem more like activities of a woman than a land; and the name on the woman's first page sounds more like a book from a woman than a land.
Yonaton Ratosh's life (1908-198x) may be more interesting than his poetry. Like the rest of modern Hebrew poets he was born in Russia, but was only raised in Hebrew. He settled in Palestine in 1921. There, like other poets, he became involved in the Revisionaist Party, editing its newspaper and turning to right-wing underground activities against the British. His dual claims to fame include his expressed desire to expel the British from Palestine, a view which inspired Abraham Stern to found the Irgun, and his founding of the Young Hebrews, known as the Cananites, in 1939. This movement rejected both Judaism and Zionism preferring the formation of a new identity based in the local culture, especially the recently discovered Canaanite myths and Ugaritic epics. In his poems he therefore invokes various ancient Canaanite deities. Like Tchernikowski's poem to Apollo, "Et Nishmat," invokes both traditional Jewish religious imagery as well as the gods of the sea, Baal, Anat, Asherat and others.
Forgive me for my sins, for they are many. . . although Nathan Alterman (1910-1970) is regarded as one of the most influential modern Hebrew poets, has never spoken to me, although I have his massive complete poet works and a thick file about him. I have always felt that working on him is more of a chore than a intellectual pleasure, perhaps because his work is devoted to poetry for art's sake and does not speak to Jewish cultural matters, or it does and awareness of his references is beyond my ken. He was born in Warsaw, raised in Kishnev, received a thorough Hebrew education from his father, settled in Israel at the age of fifteen, and graduated gymnasium in Tel Aviv, but returned to study in Europe. Altermann wrote popular weekly poetry columns in the Hebrew papers of Palestine from the thirties till the sixties. He also wrote poetry for children which has become popular songs. But, for those not truly dedicated to poetry and willing to read it for intellectual, historical, and cultural content, it would be best not to invest the time and energy in Altermann.
While the biographies of these poets start to sound the same, that of Leah Goldberg highlights the contribution of a woman in these circles. Born in Lithuania, awarded a doctorate in literature, she settled in Palestine in 1935. Like most intellectuals here until this day she held several jobs, working for Habimah theatre, a publishing house, and teaching literature at the Hebrew University. In addition to writing her own poetry she translated many classics of European poetry to Hebrew. Her poem "Tel Aviv 1935" (Carmi, p. 553) shows the harsh realities of living in Palestine, continuing the work of Shlonsky who also chronicled the boredom and alienation of Jewish life in Tel Aviv rather than the dreamy fantasies about "the Land" that earlier poets such as Tchernichowski and Bialik wrote in Europe. This poem shows the disembodied kit-bags of travelers walking down the street and describes the harsh reality of a hamsin heat wave with the paradoxical language of a cold knife. The poem then shifts to the issue of the burden of memories contained in the city, a paradoxical idea to be connected with such a new city so free of memory and historical association. Goldberg pursues this idea, personalizing every person's childhood memories and lost loves, and comparing the process of memory to the workings of a camera that is both dark inside and turns things around. She then turns to the collective memory of the Jews of Tel Aviv and depicts, borrowing from a midrashic theme, the churches of the residents' home towns washing up on the beach of Tel Aviv. A brilliant image that vividly shows that despite the newness of the city and the youngness of the Yishuv, the inability of the Jews in Palestine to escape from memories of their pasts.
Gabriel Preil is an interesting cultural phenomenon. He was born in Estonia in 1911 and lived in the United States since 1922 where he published several volumes of Hebrew poetry which was widely acclaimed, including in Israel, although he had not been there until very late in life. His poems, unfortunately not the ones in Carmi, reflect the American reality of New York City, New England landscapes, and the African American experience.
Zelda Mishkovsky (1914-) was born in the Ukraine and settled in Palestine in 1925. Her work reflects her experiences as a religious woman who taught and combines Jewish materials and modern poetry. It is interesting that a woman had the educational liberty to attain such accomplishments, not usually found in religious men whose intellectual world is often more narrowly circumscribed. The theme of both poems presented in Carmi (p. 557) deals with the centrality of a person's name to their existence and identity. In "Then my soul cried Out" she describes what appears to be the death of a woman dear to her. In "Each Person Has a Name" she describes the various names that a person accumulates in the course of one's lifetime from the name given by God till the name given at death.
Simlarly, Dalia Ravikovitch (b. 1936) born and educated in Palestine brings themes of feminism to her poetry. In "Mechanical Doll" she describes what seems to be the shattering experience of a sexual encounter, or just general awkwardness, and the need to protect herself by being poised, submissive, and controlled. It ends with a description of herself, her hair, eyes, and dress (p. 578). A poem that continues to show the struggle between the individual and society in modern Israel.
Abba Kovner (1918-) followed the usual route: born in the Crimea, educated in Hebrew in Vilna, but departed from it by remaining in Europe. During the Holocaust he was leader of the Jewish Partisan Fighters in Vilna. After the war he settled in a kibbutz in Palestine, fought in the War of Independence, and continued to write poetry, often with Holocaust related themes. "My Sister" involves a paradoxical and perhaps cynical depiction of his fathers religious faith and practice, punctuated with the traditional epithets of Barukh Hashem, Be-ezrat Hashem, Blessed is God and With God's Help, against the graphic image of the Jewish people going up in smoke in ovens (Carmi, p. 565).
Yehudah Amichai (1924-) is one of the most intriguing Hebrew poets of modern Israel. His work, both profound, ironic, and entertaining, translates easily to other languages and many bilingual editions of his books have been published. He is a regular feature on the lecture circuit and an evening with him is a very worthwhile experience. Amichai was born in Germany, left for Palestine in 1936, where he served in the army and educational system. His work mixes graphic sexual images with Jewish religious images, criticized by some, surprising criticism in light of similar mixtures by medieval Hebrew poets. In one poem (Akhshav bara'ash, p. 88; in his Selected poems, p. 80), he describes sexual intercourse using biblical images: "We did it in front of the mirror/ And in the light. We did it in darkness. /In water, and in the high grass . . . and in honor of God . . . We did it / Like wheels and holy creatures / and with chariot-feats of prophets. / We did it six wings /And six legs.") More tame is the example in Carmi on p. 568 in which he remembers his physical linkage to a woman as a union or invention that was dismembered. It was nevertheless a good loving invention while it lasted, ". . . an airplane made from a man and a woman, with wings and everything: we got off the ground and flew a little."
He writes elsewhere, "And what about God? Once we sang 'There is no God like ours (the synagogue hymn Ein Kelohenu).' Now we sing 'There is no God of ours (ein elohenu)." But we sing, we still sing. (Gam ha-egrof, p. 137)
"On the Day of Atonement," (p. 571) describes a visit in the Arab market of Jerusalem in the pious terms of the liturgy for the high holidays. One of the Arab shops, which reminded him of a shop his father had in Europe before the Holocaust, is described in terms of the holy Ark of the synagogue. He then compared the Arab closing his shop with the final prayer of the holiday, neilah, the closing of the gates.
Amichai mixes freely images of the Holocaust, Israeli wars, and his past loves. In "The City in Which I was Born," (p. 572) he describes a trajectory of destruction which seems to follow him from Germany to Palestine to modern Israel, mentioning his memories, especially those of past lovers.
One of Amichai's most touching writings is more of a poetic short story than a poem. The full text in Hebrew and English is found in the Bantam Anthology of Modern Hebrew Short Stories. In it he describes what he calls the deaths of his father, reviewing the traumas from his father's life. In the excerpt in Carmi (p. 568), he presents in touching yet ironic terms how his father's participation in war did not inoculate him from having to fight in wars as well.
Nathan Zach (b. 1930) brings a new dimension to Hebrew poetry, Christian themes. Also a refugee from Germany, he held the usual array of writing, publishing, and teaching jobs in Israel in addition to writing and translating poetry. Here in modern Hebrew, despite strong cultural biases against doing so, he felt comfortable or motivated to write poems about Jesus drawing on passages from the New Testament. This is still a book that is forbidden in Israeli culture where laws prohibit school use of Bibles that contain New Testaments. It seems strange that as a world superpower with a nuclear arsenal Israelis would not be so paranoid about Christianity. In fact, I remember teaching one class here, following the arguments I made in a lecture in this series on the similarities between the Binding of Isaac and the Crucifixion of Jesus. In summarizing the Jesus story (beloved son, died for atonement of sins . . .) I asked the classes-hundreds of future Israeli teachers-- what story this was. The only student who could finally identify it was one of the extremely religious students rather than any of the secular Israelis.
One of the major cultural lessons learned from this poetry is the richness of European Hebrew culture during the twentieth century. That most of these poets received their Hebrew training in the diaspora is fascinating, if not shocking, in light of the relatively low level of Hebrew cultural creativity outside of Israel today, in part due to the destruction of the European center. More important, however, is the fact that this poetry serves to display, often with great artistry, the development of Jewish thought, culture, and values, particularly a strident critique of contemporary Jewish life and values using traditional terminology. Taking this thought one step further, I might add that for most such developments are often exclusively presented in religious terms, the emergence of the various denominations and the theological works of Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig, and Martin Buber, and others. For many, however, such works are not only not intrinsically interesting, but do not speak to the range of passions and emotions in the Jewish world during this period.
Expressing in his usual ironic way the relationship between Jewish religion and Jewish culture, Yehudah Amichai once said in an interview (quoted as were other passages here from Yoseph Milman, Sacrilegious Imagery in Yehudah Amchai's Poetry, Association for Jewish Studies Review 20 1995): "I grew up in a religious home . . . I naturally take all those treasures with me now. I would advise any child who wants to be a poet to grow up in a very religious home, or a communist one, with a religion that fills the parents' entire being. Afterwards you fight against it, but the treasure remains."
This may be why despite all the difficulties we send our children to religious run schools. As we tell those who question such a decision, better that our children should be apikorsim, heretics, than am haartzim, ignoramuses. With the Hebrew and religious skills they will have something to rebel against and a background for further investigations, the reason that religiously educated students in Israel can engage in the serious study of Jewish culture while secularly educated Jews can often only mutter pious platitudes or resort to extremist behavior for or against religion. And maybe this is the reason we subconsciously gave one son the middle name of Amichai.