Leann Shamash
Author of the blog Words Have Wings

Oh, Mothers

Photo by Leann Shamash
Photo by Leann Shamash

Parshat Vayera contains the stories of at least three women. The first is the story of Lot’s wife, who fled S’dom before it was destroyed. She was instructed not to look back, yet the midrash says that she turned back in order to check on her daughters and consequently turned into a pillar of salt.

The second character is Hagar, who was banished by her mistress Sarah to the wilderness, together with her son. Hagar could not bear to see her son die of thirst and so turned away from him. God heard Ishmael’s laments and provided him with water.

Sarah is a character who appears throughout these eventful chapters. Toward the conclusion of  Parshat Vayera, Sarah finally gives birth to Yitzhak in her old age. Some  time afterward, Avraham and Yitzhak journey to Har Moriah. Although Sarah is not mentioned in the story of Akeydah, it is at the opening of Parshat Chayei Sarah where we are told of Sarah’s death at the age of 127 years. The Midrash attributes her death to hearing about the near sacrifice of her son from the Satan.

Three mothers, three sorrows.

This is a poem where I have mixed the narratives of these three characters. It is called

Oh, Mothers.

 It is still timely.

May we hear good news.


Oh mothers,

Cover your eyes.      Turn away.


     She stands on a precipice,

kneels on rocky ground.
     She stumbles through

darkened tunnels,

     peeks through torn curtains.


Her dreams sink like stones in the sea.

     Her visions turn to salt.

Her tent stands empty of echoes.

     Her cup runs dry as a bone.


Oh, mothers, cover your eyes.      Turn away,

for her heart has been trampled,

     her hands have been tied,
her voice has been stolen,
     her will has been bent.


The words of the prophet are not yet written, yet still she weeps.


What remains      is

a cry in the wilderness

     a nick in the stone,

blood on the rocks

and from somewhere behind,      the

cooing of the mourning dove.


There are no questions to ask,

     no answers to give.


For the cities are burning,

     black smoke stifles and chokes.
The angels peer down in         dismay.

The end of the story comes too late.


Where are our children?

Oh, mothers, cover your eyes.      Turn away.


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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