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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Chaos: You Know How it Feels

Updated: Jul 1, 2022

Here we are, in the month of Tamuz and summer is upon us. Korach is a summer parsha, and I always associate it with summer camp and fun. But Parshat Korach is not a fun parsha and is perhaps known best for its central character, the man who tried to take power from Moshe. He and his followers are ultimately punished by God by being swallowed by the earth as the Israelites looked on in horror. This was followed by a plague that killed thousands.

Korach is part of the series of parshiyot where the plans to approach The Promised Land unravel and the people unravel as well. In a Sefer where miracles and larger than life events seem to explode at each turn, one can sense the chaos, the rule of the mob, the rumors and the unease of the camp. Negative energies ran high and these energies in turn promoted more fear, resentment and heartache. The chaos of the moment is my focus here, as well as the concept of the earth opening her mouth to swallow Korach's family and followers.

My inspiration for this poem was a podcast by Matan, where Dr. Erica Brown was interviewed by Dr. Yosefa (Fogel) Wruble. Dr. Brown, in that podcast, posited that the earth itself is a central character in Sefer Bamidbar, a character like Moses and Miriam and Korach. In this parsha the earth acts against the chaos and those who revolted.


You know how it feels

the persistent rumblings.

Hot winds of words swirl through air



fomenting threats.

You know how it feels when you are caught in the maelstrom

brewing for years

a tornado conceived of with uneasy feet,

restless pacing,

fingers pointing,

legs ready to pounce.

Syllables escape

capsizing through the air,


Fractured trust explodes like dust.

Norms scatter,

civility crumbles.


Behold before you,

around you

stand your countrymen

your neighbors

swollen tempers,

sour expressions,

naked anger,


The wind whips

buffeted by unrequited expectations.

Chaos is mushroomed


safe havens narrowed

There is nowhere to hide.


You know how it feels when the tower of Babel slowly collapses

brick by brick

wall by wall.

when a word is no longer a word,

when voices are not understood,

when we no longer see each other's humanity

or feel each other’s pain.

We no longer agree to disagree.

Is that the best we can do?


You know how it feels

when Mother Earth is no longer solid

beneath your feet

and suddenly Mother Earth

dutifully opens her mouth wide,

and swallows.

It is over so quickly

Mother Earth belches

and settles.

For a moment there is silence.

There are no winners in chaos.

Only losers.

But if יהוה brings about something unheard-of, so that the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, you shall know that those involved have spurned יהוה.”

Scarcely had he finished speaking all these words when the ground under them burst asunder, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up with their households, all Korah’s people and all their possessions.

Numbers 16:30-32 (Translation from Sefaria)

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