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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Help Me

תִּבֹּ֔ל גַּם־אַתָּ֕ה גַּם־הָעָ֥ם הַזֶּ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר עִמָּ֑ךְ כִּֽי־כָבֵ֤ד מִמְּךָ֙ הַדָּבָ֔ר לֹא־תוּכַ֥ל עֲשֹׂ֖הוּ לְבַדֶּֽךָ:

You will surely wear yourself out, and these people as well. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.

Exodus 18:18. Translation taken from Sefaria

My first choice of poems last week was to try to recreate the scene of Sinai, but as Parshat Yitro passes into the past, I wanted to spend a few minutes connecting a few dots that I just don't want to miss as we progress forward through the parshiyot. In this Parsha, Yitro, Moshe's father-in-law, is indeed wise when he sees how Moshe struggles under the burden of his endless responsibilities and pleads with Moshe to appoint judges to adjudicate the many problems of the Hebrews. Moses, always humble, pays heed to his father-in-law and does appoint judges to help him shoulder the responsibility of governing this large and unruly group of people.

The Israelites had seen plagues in Egypt and they escaped after witnessing the damage a plague can wreak on a population. Fast forward to 2020-2021 and the world is once again living through a plague. Everyone has endured the effects of this plague and there is no lack of suffering. It is unfair to compare suffering among people, since so many have lost their lives, their livelihoods and family members. Others are putting themselves in danger serving the population. And then there are the mothers of children. Working mothers, stay at home mothers, single mothers, mothers with partners, mothers with their own mothers nearby, rural mothers, urban mothers, older mothers, younger mothers. All of those mothers trying valiantly to keep themselves together as the burden of child raising, managing to work, to teach, to entertain and more and without the benefit of a supportive community. These mothers cannot ask for help. There is no one to help them with their huge responsibilities and the weight of the isolation and the work which does not cease brings our mothers to the breaking point.

I write this poem, inspired by Yitro's words, as a way to acknowledge these mothers and to let them know that although I cannot help them, I hear them. I also would send people to the New York Times who have done a series on the issues of mothers during the pandemic.


Help me

I cannot find the words to ask

I have no time for words

Too busy

Too exhausted

The words are stuck in my mouth

Like dry cracker crumbs

I look around me

There is no end to the work

My cup is emptying

Help me


Pour strength into me

Give me the strength to go on

Each day

I encourage, I feed,

chase, teach, help,

comfort, cook, wash,

work, entertain


My eyes are heavy

My arms are weighted

My feet drag beneath me

My shoulders sag

beneath the weight of a thousand requests

demands piled onto demands

The burden is heavy

The tasks keep mounting

The list gets longer each day

The clock moves so slowly

Hour to hour

There is no end

I fall into my bed each night

exhausted, spent

Help me

a small voice inside of me cries

Please help me

Ease my burden


I cannot do it alone

Help me find my smile

I am slowly sinking

There is no stop

I am so tired

I used to have a life map

It mapped my days

It showed me how my days would go

The map is lost

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