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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash


This Shabbat, in Parshat B'Chukotai, we read a series of blessings and curses

if we do not heed the commandments. There is a custom to whisper the verses that contain curses. There is discussion of who might even take an aliyah when a curse is read? How do we combine the honor of going to the torah with the curses? This is my second poem for Parshat B'Chukotai. May all of us merit blessings always.



Do you hear the whispers?

They pierce the silence

a torrent of staccato softness.

You struggle to hear them

even when you softly murmur to yourself,

"I do not want to hear these words."


so different from shouts

Don’t you always want to hear the whispers?

Don’t your ears perk up just a little bit,

like a dog that hears thunder in the distance,

so you can hear those words you’re not supposed to hear?

I see you listening

your head cocked to the side

your ears open,

your eyes drilled onto the floor

your shoulders back


Afraid to move

lest you miss a word

Hush... Do you hear the whispers?

The words that are

coated in black ink

dripping threats and dark skies.

Words that contain no rain

that contain death

and curses

and war.


Some avert their eyes

some look away

some stare at the floor

some feign indifference


Can you hear them?

The whispers.

They rise and fall like a net over us

we are caught in that net

We strain not to hear those words

we cover our ears

but they catch us



Be still, my child.

Look away

do not listen.

Don’t look

if you don’t see it

then you don’t hear the words

if you don’t hear the words

they will not register

if the words do not register

they don’t exist

they won't exist


Vayikra 27:15-46. The curses of Parshat B'Chukotai.

I would rather not include the text here on this page. On reading curses in synagogue.

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