The unswerving religious focus of emerging American poet Yossi Huttler, 45, will likely limit the audience for his debut book, “Lakol Z’man” (“A Time for Everything”) — and that’s a shame. In it, the author, who is pious in his Jewish practice, evokes piyyutim, Hebrew liturgical verse. But he also alludes to a more varied literary framework.
From ancient faith, Huttler wrests powerful new epigrams. Brief and often fragmented, they resolve with an incisive twist. When they introduce doubt, or admit to both fear and rage in the face of observance, they become at once simple and layered. Pegged to the cycle of Jewish holidays, the loveliest of them are nevertheless universal.
One such poem treats a biblical scapegoat, chosen by chance to assume the sins of the Jewish people. By underscoring the randomness of luck, “Goral” recalls the High Holy Day prayer “Unetanneh Tokef,” a litany of all of the possible — and often frightening — fates held in reserve for Jews in the upcoming year: