Sabbath lie

By Yehuda Amichai 1924–2000 Yehuda Amichai

Translated By Glenda Abramson and Tudor Parfitt

On Friday, at twilight of a summer day
While the smells of food and prayer rose from every house
And the sound of the Sabbath angels’ wings was in the air,
While still a child I started to lie to my father:
“I went to another synagogue.”

I don’t know if he believed me or not
But the taste of the lie was good and sweet on my tongue
And in all the houses that night
Hymns rose up along with lies
To celebrate the Sabbath.
And in all the houses that night
Sabbath angels died like flies in a lamp,
And lovers put mouth to mouth,
Blew each other up until they floated upward,
Or burst.

And since then the lie has been good and sweet on my tongue
And since then I always go to another synagogue.
And my father returned the lie when he died:
“I’ve gone to another life.”

Yehuda Amichai, “Sabbath lie” from Great Tranquility: Questions and Answers, trans. by Glenda Abramson and Tudor Parfitt, published by Harper & Row. Copyright © 1997 by Yehuda Amichai. Reprinted by permission of Hana Amichai.

Source: Great Tranquility: Questions and Answers (Harper & Row, 1997)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Yehuda Amichai 1924–2000

POET’S REGION Israel

Subjects Living, Youth, Death, Relationships, Home Life, Family & Ancestors, Religion, Faith & Doubt, Judaism, Social Commentaries, Life Choices

 Yehuda  Amichai

Biography

Yehuda Amichai is recognized as one of Israel’s finest poets. His poems—written in Hebrew—have been translated into forty languages, and entire volumes of his work have been published in English, French, German, Swedish, Spanish, and Catalan. Translator Robert Alter has said: “Yehuda Amichai, it has been remarked with some justice, is the most widely translated Hebrew poet since King David.” Amichai’s translations into English . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Youth, Death, Relationships, Home Life, Family & Ancestors, Religion, Faith & Doubt, Judaism, Social Commentaries, Life Choices

POET’S REGION Israel

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.