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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Messages Carved in Stone

This is one of two poems this week on Parshat Ki Tavo...Stay tuned for poem 2.

Parshat Ki Tavo

Once upon a time there was a people who endured.

One day it came time for them to cross the river.

They were told to take large stones, whitewash them,

and write down the words of the Torah. Perhaps it was

the ten commandments, perhaps it was all of the mitzvot,

perhaps it was the entire Torah recorded in all the

languages in the world. The stones were to be brought across the river

with the people and so the people would remember.

Memorials, societal messages; all convey messages. Some are important, some less so.

We confront them continuously each day. Who can judge the lasting value of this confusing array of messages?


Messages Carved in Stone

Stone memorials,

remind us of important messages.

They are not shy;

carved of marble,

wrought of bronze

"Remember me!" they cry out silently.

Giant busts carved into granite mountaintops;

they stand hard and fast;

unchastened by the wind.

Noble looking men with eyes of stone

look away from us on the ground;

their empty gazes on the horizon,

so high they are untouchable;

their stares frozen in time;

messages immutable,

We stare at them in stunned silence

stilled by their limestone loftiness,

dwarfed by their message.

We turn and walk away

wondering which is more important,

the messenger or the message?

Messages surround us.

Billboards line avenues instead of trees

bold messages meant for people speeding by

with little time to ponder.

"See me!" they cry.

Buy my products!

Graffiti accosts us with messages.

Bold colors beckon us from railroad bridges;

invite vivid proclamations.

"With my hands I write these words."

"With spray paint I leave my mark."

"This is my story!"

"These are my lessons!"

"I am here to stay!"

"Remember me!"

Planes write messages in the air

Messages written in the clouds.

Messages pop like dandelions on

tiny illuminated screens

so small, so many, so jumbled.

Hungry for our attention.

Messages lost in the air.


And then there you are,

sitting in the dark at midnight.

You see only the patterns of the stars shine brilliant in the sky.

The quiet clears your mind

and you feel a small still voice, the Bat Kol**

whisper in your ear.

"Respect others."

"Be humble."

"Be kind."


And the message is there

in the stars, in the sky,

in your eyes and in your ears.


(Translation: Know Across from Whom You Stand. The Kadosh Baruch Hu.)

"As soon as you have crossed the Jordan into the land that your God is giving you, you shall set up large stones. Coat them with plaster

and inscribe upon them all the words of this Teaching. When you cross over to enter the land that your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, the God of your ancestors, promised you—

upon crossing the Jordan, you shall set up these stones, about which I charge you this day, on Mount Ebal, and coat them with plaster.

And on those stones you shall inscribe every word of this Teaching most distinctly."

Deuteronomy 27:2, 8

Translation from Sefaria

*Hevel means nothingness.

** A Bat Kol is the heavenly voice. The Sound of Silence performed by Disturbed. Written by Simon and Garfunkel.

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