Leann Shamash
Leann Shamash

In and Out: Parshiyot Tazria-Metzora

In and Out: A Poem about Parshat Tazria-Metzora

VaYikra 36:13 it says, כָּל־יְמֵ֞י אֲשֶׁ֨ר הַנֶּ֥גַע בּ֛וֹ יִטְמָ֖א טָמֵ֣א ה֑וּא בָּדָ֣ד יֵשֵׁ֔ב מִח֥וּץ לַֽמַּחֲנֶ֖ה מוֹשָׁבֽוֹ׃ (ס) “He shall be unclean as long as the disease is on him. Being unclean, he shall dwell apart; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”

Translation from Sefaria

Whether it is a man or a woman, a person who is afflicted with Tzaraat lives outside the camp until it is deemed that they are fit to be allowed back in. The following two poems attempt to explore the differences of being on the outside of the camp and the inside of the camp.


I tiptoe around

the camp,

watching where I step,

surrounded by people

so many people.

Our noisy camp bumps and shouts,

shuffles and struts,

tents and fire pits,

desert dust whistles in our noses. Sounds of people living too close together. Arguments and laughter,

babies crying.

Sounds of life and waiting.

We follow the Fire We follow the Cloud We are always ready

to follow.

Our lives are not simple; a multitude of rules to follow .

So much to remember. These rules are heavy, they weigh upon me.

How we appear, our skin, our hair

our eyebrows, our lashes. Where we step What we touch

Who not to embrace. What to avoid at all costs.

Action and waiting

In and out

By day we must watch ourselves By night as well Our most personal moments

follow a system we must learn,

abide by and respect. Always my eyes are open.

I am aware, I am awake. Keep your distance. Watch carefully.

No one stays on the inside forever. 




I am on the outside

the camp is over there.

Do you see it from here?

The heat’s haze blurs the lines.

I sit in the stillness.

Hot winds blow around me.

My shawl shelters me from the heat of day

and the dust of night.

By midday I seek shade.


I am not alone here.

There are others.

We sit in the silence and wait.

From here I see the camp

The movement of the tents in the wind.

rippling like muddy waves.

I see children running,

the old sit,

the young pace,

always preparing,

Scurrying about,

waiting to follow the cloud.


I cannot see the place of sacrifice

but I smell the pungent smoke,

It is pleasant in my nose.

It is my connection

to the inside


I am not idle as I sit under the blue sky,

waiting for my status to change.

My mind is active.

The quiet brings me back

to stories of crossings,

I can feel the waters cool my feet

I know how it is to wander, to follow.

I squint upwards

as desert birds fly high above me.

I picture my little brothers

I daydream about my return.

I dream of my husband on the other side.

I am patient.

I wait.

I create.


In my heart I know

life is a series of ins and outs.

Sometimes we are on the inside,

and sometimes we are on the outside.

Both have their time and place.

Sometimes we give and sometimes we take.

Sometimes we do and sometimes we watch.

Sometimes we bruise and sometimes we heal.

Sometimes we create and sometimes we wait.

“A time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones, A time for embracing and a time for shunning embraces.”

Kohelet 3:5

About the Author
Leann Shamash worked within the field of Jewish education in the greater Boston area for her entire career, which included both formal and informal experiences. Currently, she is writing her blog, writing poetry, working on a variety of photography projects, teaching Jewish grandparenting classes and creative movement classes. She is a child of a Holocaust survivor, married to a Jew from Tehran, and is a proud mother and grandmother.
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