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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Ben-oni


There is so much to write about in this parsha; so much to savor and learn from.

A brief review of the Parsha reminds us of Yaakov's meeting with Eisav, before which he has a damaging physical encounter with an angel. We hear in great detail how Yaakov prepares for meeting Eisav. The resulting meeting is positive and the brothers hug. Also prominent in Parshat Vayishlach is the rape of Dina and the subsequent raid by Dina's brothers, where men are slaughtered without mercy. Yaakov is once again blessed and following the blessing his favored wife Rachel gives birth to a son and dies shortly after childbirth but not before naming her son Ben-Oni, or son of my suffering.


I've written about the death of Rachel and the name she gives to her son. Why write about this now, when I could write about so many other subjects in this parsha? The situation of the hostages and the war in Israel leaves many children without mothers. Who will raise those children? Who will care for them in their mother's absence? I want to believe that it was Rachel's wish and belief that her son Ben-oni, called Benjamin by his father, would be raised in a nurturing way by aunts, a father and others who love him. I want to extend this imaginary wish of Rachel Emeinu to the orphaned children of today. Live. Live and prosper. Live.


PS. I formatted this poem carefully for a computer. It is meant to be in the shape of a triangle. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that way on a phone. I'll try to fix it, but if you want to see the poem as it is supposed to appear, please view on a computer. The formatting for this poem is central to its meaning.

 


Ben-Oni




I lie in a tent of goatskin, my womb emptied. The midwife smooths

back my hair, wet with sweat, as she peers into my eyes, fading

now, and grasps my chin in her hands. Oh, I am so very tired.

Rachel, she shouts, You have a son. I hear her. I sigh, a weak

smile. I whisper, His name will be Ben Oni, my gift, my

burden. My son, you are the air that I breathe and  my

heaviest stone, my life and my death. With your first

cry, this is my ending and your beginning, as though

there was no pause between hello and goodbye.

Ben Oni, hush now. Who will raise you, child?

Who will dry your tears? Who will hold you,

protect you? Who will carry you on her

hip? Who will prize you above all

others? Who will look at you

with mother's eyes? Who

could love you more

than me? My son,

Benoni, live.

Live.





 




They set out from Bethel; but when they were still some distance short of Ephrath, Rachel was in childbirth, and she had hard labor. When her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Have no fear, for it is another boy for you.” But as she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. Thus Rachel died. She was buried on the road to Ephrath—now Bethlehem. Genesis 35:16-19




בֶּן־אוֹנִ֑י


 

Other posts on Parshat VaYishlach on Words Have Wings:



Limp With Me To The Finish Line



The Silence of a Father; The Voice of a Daughter



Who Knows?







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