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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Breaking Bread

During this notable Parsha, Parshat Yitro, when the Israelites receive the Aseret Hadibrot (The Ten Commandments), I have chosen to write about breaking bread. Below you will find a few other pieces which describe the event at Mount Sinai, but for this week my heart was caught by a pasuk at the beginning of the parsha, which describes a meal that Yitro, Moshe's father in law, Tziporah's father and priest of Midian, served to Aaron and the elders of Israel. What was this feast that he prepared? M'farshim differ as to what this meal was. Was it a meal noting Yitro's conversion to Judaism, a meal that sealed a covenant between Yitro's people and the Israelites or perhaps a meal celebrating the miracles that had been performed leading to this point?*

This piece brings us forward in time to some place, some where at some uncertain point of time. I wonder what initially brings the participants to this table, but it is the results that matter more to me.

In an ideal world we break bread together to heal. May the day come someday in which enemies will sit and break bread together.

May we hear good news soon.



Breaking Bread

They enter one by one,

heavy footed and solemn

to share a meal on a table fashioned from oak

in a room simple and spare,

windows open to the evening air.

White curtains flutter gently


rickety chairs squeak their complaints

as they settle in

sitting shoulder to shoulder

staring across the table

narrowed eyes to furrowed brows.

The air ruffles with their collective exhales,

their intentions veiled.

On this simple table,

not too narrow, not too broad

loaves of bread are arranged

their fragrance rises and then

descends, like a fragrant fog,

upon them.

The wrinkles on their brows soften.

One person from among them stands,

glances at the guests and lifts a loaf.

There is silence as he tears the bread and shares.

The stillness is broken

and chunks of warm bread are shared across the borders

of the table hewn from red oak

and the sounds of smiles are heard

throughout the room.

Hardened hearts

soften like freshly baked bread.

Rigid Spines slowly relax,

like melting butter.

Cheeks puff outward like rising dough.

Perhaps this shared meal kneads the possible with impossible,

seals the deep cracks between friend and foe.

Here they sit shoulder to shoulder

open eyes to smoothed brows,

as crumbs litter the oak table

and the air is humid with shared words.

Somewhere, far from here, was born the red oak that made the table,

to harbor these crumbs of budding fellowship

and somewhere, miles from this small room,

grew spring wheat plants, once rippling golden in the field,

now formed into moist and heavy loaves.

For this reason the wheat was created.

In this room, simple and spare

with a table fashioned from oak

and windows open to the evening air,

white curtains flutter gently

while on rickety chairs, strangers learn to trust.

And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices for God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to partake of the meal before God with Moses’ father-in-law.

Exodus 18:12

וַיִּקַּ֞ח יִתְר֨וֹ חֹתֵ֥ן מֹשֶׁ֛ה עֹלָ֥ה וּזְבָחִ֖ים לֵֽאלֹהִ֑ים וַיָּבֹ֨א אַהֲרֹ֜ן וְכֹ֣ל ׀ זִקְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל לֶאֱכל־לֶ֛חֶם עִם־חֹתֵ֥ן מֹשֶׁ֖ה לִפְנֵ֥י



Other Poetry From Words Have Wings on Parshat Yitro I am a Bird- A poem about Tzipporah


In researching Yitro's feast I found this blog post, written by Vered Guttman, on the feast of Yitro, which is still practiced by Tunisian Jews. Please take a look at her post!


*For more information on Yitro's meal:

Taken from the Al Hatorah website as suggested from the Matan's latest podcast on Parshat Yitro with Rabbanit Neima Novetsky, hosted by Dr. Yosefa (Fogel) Wruble


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