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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash


When reading Parshat Vayishlach I wondered about the many gifts that Jacob assembled for his estranged brother, Eisav, as he prepared to meet him, years after they had separated hastily and with great enmity. The language is clear that Jacob feared the meeting with his brother; he feared for his life and the lives of his family.

In creating this poem, I tried to look differently at this momentous moment in Jaob's and Eisav's lives. I thought to reduce the moment in time and in meaning to the essential bond that exists between siblings; especially between twins. I tried to see past the wealth, the power and the complications of birthright and look back to what was and the potential for forgiveness that always exists, if we allow it to enter into our lives.


The best gifts were not the camels, not the ewes nor the sheep. Not the bulls nor the asses.

The gift was seeing that walk again,

that distinctive heavy gait

The glint of red in his beard, graying now

Even now, after so much time has passed.

Even from a distance you recognized him

as he approached.

Your mouth is dry

and you began to tremble,

yes, from fear,

but yes,



you trembled upon seeing a brother long lost,

a twin with whom

you shared a tent

and two parents.

Once, so long ago, you held his heel

as you entered the world.

Once, so long ago

you sat together

and played and tumbled

and teased and laughed

and fought

as brothers do.

You search into his eyes

And you see past this stranger

You look deeper and you see your father,

your mother

in the shape and color of his eyes

and when you look deeper

you find yourself

reflected in the depths.

It is in your brother’s eyes

that you return home.

A sheep, a camel

may be gifts.

They may provide wealth, status

But your gift is your brother.

The gift is forgiveness

A thousand sheep cannot buy forgiveness

The best gifts are not the sheep,

but holding your brother in your arms

Being forgiven

After all this time

Your tears on his neck,

his tears on your cheeks.

After dreams and ladders,

angels and fears,

tears and memories,


wrongs and rights,

and sleepless nights

And one endless night fighting an angel

you have found the strength

to ask for forgiveness.

You hold each other

and once again you are young


two small brothers.

Two halves that fit snugly together,

a completed puzzle.

As you hold him

for those few moments

forgiveness echoes in your ears,

you soften.

Forget about the she-goats and the camels;

even your wives and many children.

For those few


time stood still

and forgiveness was the gift

offered and received

that morning in Peni-el

Photograph from Fallon Michael from Wix Stock Images

After spending the night there, he selected from what was at hand these presents for his brother Esau:

200 she-goats and 20 he-goats; 200 ewes and 20 rams;

30 milch camels with their colts; 40 cows and 10 bulls; 20 she-asses and 10 he-asses.

Genesis 31:14-16

And you shall add, ‘And your servant Jacob himself is right behind us.’” For he reasoned, “If I propitiate him with presents in advance, and then face him, perhaps he will show me favor.”

Genesis 31:22

Text taken from Sefaria

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