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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash


Forgive me for two posts in one day. I am attempting to continue to write poetry about the parshiyot. Last week and this week in both Parshat Lech Lecha and Parshat Vayera we talk about covenant. I wasn't really sure what covenant meant. It is the bottom line of Judaism; our covenant with God which is at the base of the special relationship between the Jewish people and God. The covenant is the core of our many responsibilities of Jews. Beginning with circumcision and working its way into the Mitzvot and a way which Jews approach the world.

Despite being the bedrock of Jewish identity, it is difficult to understand what covenant is. At once it is the most basic premise of our relationship with God; on the other had, like all law it is complex and has been endlessly interpreted.

I've struggled with putting into words; any words, the idea of covenant. There is so much weight, so much history and even tragedy in these words. So many have sacrificed their lives for the sake of this covenant. On the other hand, where would we be without this covenant with God? Where would our Sabbath be, our principles, our ideals, our liturgy, our community and the countless ideas that our people have contributed to the world?

Please accept this short poem as a small attempt to put into words that agreement forged between God and Abraham, between God and you and me.

I am most intrigued by this verse from Genesis as the Brit is enacted so on this verse I base my poem.

וַיְהִ֤י הַשֶּׁ֙מֶשׁ֙ בָּ֔אָה וַעֲלָטָ֖ה הָיָ֑ה וְהִנֵּ֨ה תַנּ֤וּר עָשָׁן֙ וְלַפִּ֣יד אֵ֔שׁ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָבַ֔ר בֵּ֖ין הַגְּזָרִ֥ים הָאֵֽלֶּה׃

When the sun set and it was very dark, there appeared a smoking oven, and a flaming torch which passed between those pieces. Genesis 15:17 (From Sefaria)

I will most likely go back and tinker with this poem, as I am so uncertain as to its meaning.

To you, my few readers, I ask what your idea is about covenant. How do you picture it in words? In art? In how you live your life? In your family's history?


The furnace of covenant

weighs heavy on us

pulls us upward

our feet dragging

our hands reaching

This covenant

demands from us

This thing

This nameless agreement


between us and a Power

Forged in fire

between us and history


Partners eternal

God and the Jews

The Jews and God

Energy pulling us

soaring us

toward an idea


of fire and ice


lit like hot embers

Do, pursue

forever chasing



pointing at us

branding us

for all time

We are known

as the people

of the Covenant

Together we are

a universe of ideas

A web of fine print

across time and space

Always burning hot

Sweet smoke rises

Energies merging


binds us

cuts us




words written in fire

Part 2



we live for

we die for

our children learn

as they nurse from mother's breasts

as they walk with their fathers

as they see the light of the candles

as they march for social justice

as they close their eyes

whispering Shema Yisrael

they join

a line of ancestors

saying those words

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