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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

A Prayer

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

In this poem, the first I will write about Parshat VaYishlach, brings us the edge of a river. It is night, Jacob is alone and is preparing to meet with his brother Esav in the morning. Esav and Jacob did not part ways amicably or honestly. Despite years apart, Jacob still fears his brother's revenge after stealing Esav's birthright. Jacob is now a wealthy man and has wives and children, flocks and servants to protect. Despite promises from God, Jacob still suffers from fear on the eve of his anticipated meeting.

At some point in our lives we have had that experience in the middle of the night, when we are the most vulnerable, when our prayers from the heart are expressed with emotion and sometimes with real fear.

In this poem I try to imagine Jacob's fear while waiting for the morning to come. Jacob's prayers and hopes will be granted, but projecting outward, to all of us who have been frightened at some point in our lives and pray fervently to God, I wonder how our prayers arrive to God. Are they heard among the innumerable prayers directed to God every day over the course of history. How does God hear our prayers?

May your prayers be answered.

A Prayer


Are you there?

It's me

I'm alone at night, it's dark

I'm so afraid

the darkness surrounds me

and fear swells in my chest

fear that disables me

a weight that smothers me

under the burden of uncertainty

Ribono Shel Olam,

there are countless prayers

Voices of the heart

They whisper and cry

plea and demand

the supplications of so many

the old and young

Mothers and fathers

husands and wives


as many as the stars in the sky

Perfect and imperfect

From all corners of the earth

Prayers do not cease

Another and another and they ascend

God, where is my voice among the many?

Is my voice lost among the pleas?

Like a voice lost in the wind?

My God,

here is my prayer

With shivers and shudders

Screams, sighs and cries

Do you hear me, God

my voice,

find my voice!

Ribono shel ha'olam

Do you know how feels to be afraid?

My stomach turns in on itself

I tremble and I quake

My knees are weak

My thoughts muddle

Words disappear

Blind and deaf to all but my fear

God hear me

help me!

I plead

Please hear my prayers

Answer me

Avinu, Eemaynu,

my prayers are not beautiful

they are not poetry

They are not still or quiet or calm

There is no music of angels

Or soaring platitudes

They are a cry

the yowl of an animal in pain

a single chirp, a wordless cry in the night

a wail that escapes from my core

a sound different from all human sounds

rising up

Until it finds You

Please let it find You

Among the millions of other wordless cries

Open Your ears, God

Do you hear me, God?

Hear me, Ribono Shel Olam

Ha' Shomayah Tefillah

Genesis 32:8-12 (From Sefaria)

The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau; he himself is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him.”

Jacob was greatly frightened; in his anxiety, he divided the people with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, thinking, “If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, the other camp may yet escape.”

Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, ‘Return to your native land and I will deal bountifully with you’!

I am unworthy of all the kindness that You have so steadfastly shown Your servant: with my staff alone I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; else, I fear, he may come and strike me down, mothers and children alike.

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