Leann Shamash
Author of the blog Words Have Wings

Leave – Parshat Vayigash – A Poem

Leave! (Leann Shamash)

As Joseph tells his family to make haste and go down to Egypt, this poem expands upon what happens when people have to leave their homes suddenly. As they leave, often they do not know what awaits them and where their journey will bring them. The poem is based upon the following line from Parshat Vayigash.

“Now, hurry back to my father and say to him: Thus says your son Joseph, ‘God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me without delay.

You will dwell in the region of Goshen, where you will be near me — you and your children and your grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all that is yours.” — Genesis 45:9 (Translation from Sefaria)


Make haste.

The dark times are here.
The soldiers are lurking.
The guns are firing.
The hurricane is howling.


The pressure is building.
The water is rising.
The flames are approaching.
The people are chasing.
The plague is spreading.


There’s no time for packing,
only for grabbing.
What should we bring?
What can we carry?
How to decide
what remains behind?


Food left half eaten.
Cabinets hang open.
Television blaring.
Laundry hanging.
Bright toys scattered.
Emptiness echoing.


Make haste and go now.
Throw coats on the kids.
Grab wallets and cards.
Only what you can carry.
Trip through the front door.
Leave the pets behind.
Don’t look back.
We must go now.


The roads are closing.
The sirens are blaring.
The police are patrolling.
The smoke is choking.
The soldiers are chasing.
The rioters are shouting.
The people are threatening.
The airport is crowding.


Where are we going?
Away, far away!
Destination unknown.
Flee far from here.
Passing through checkpoints.
Hiding in the forests.
Crouching in alleys.
Crossing cold mountains.
Moving through deserts.
Floating on choppy seas.


Where are we going?
Into the night.
Into the cold.
Into the storm.
Into the sea.
Into the air.
Into the square.
Into the hands of strangers.

The unknown awaits us.

Is peace on the other side of the river?
Is food on the other side of the desert?
It is safety that beckons.
A light so faint it is like a distant star.
It is now or never.
The door slams behind us.
Will we return?
We don’t know.

We must leave.

About the Author
After a career in Jewish education, Leann Shamash is the author of the blog Words Have Wings, which addresses the parsha of the week through poetry.
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