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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Oh, Mothers

Parshat Vayera contains the stories of three women. The first is the story of Lot’s wife, who fled S'dom with her husband Lot, before it was destroyed. She was instructed not to look back, yet the midrash says that she turned back to check on her daughters and consequently turned into a pillar of salt.

The second character is Hagar, who was banished to the wilderness with her son, by Sarah a Hagar could not bear to see her son die of thirst and so turned away from him. God heard Ishmael's laments and provided him with water.

Sarah is a character who appears through these eventful chapters. Toward the conclusion of the Parsha, Sarah finally gives birth in her old age. Some indeterminate time afterward, Avraham and Isaac journey to Har Moriah. Although Sarah is not mentioned in the story of Akeydah, it is at the opening of Parshat Chayei Sarah where are told of Sarah’s death at the age of 127 years. The Midrash attributes her death to hearing about the near sacrifice of her son from the Satan.

Three mothers, three sorrows.

This is a poem where I have mixed the narratives of these three characters. It is called

Oh, Mothers. Perhaps is it still timely.

May we hear good news.



Oh, Mothers

Oh mothers,

Cover your eyes. Turn away.


She stands on a precipice

kneels on rocky ground.

She stumbles through

darkened tunnels,

peeks through torn curtains.

Her dreams sink like stones in the sea.

Her visions turn to salt.

Her tent stands empty of echoes.

Her cup runs dry as a bone.

Oh, mothers, cover your eyes. Turn away,

for her heart has been trampled,

her hands have been tied,

her voice has been stolen,

her will has been bent.

The words of the prophet are not yet written, yet still she weeps.

What remains is

a cry in the wilderness

a nick in the stone,

blood on the rocks

and from somewhere behind, the

cooing of the mourning dove.

There are no questions to ask,

no answers to give.

For the cities are burning,

black smoke stifles and chokes.

The angels peer down in dismay.

The end of the story comes too late.

Where are our children?

Oh, mothers, cover your eyes. Turn away.


A moment of comfort:

Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy! Though I have fallen, I rise again; Though I sit in darkness, GOD is my light.

Micah 7:8


G-d rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah sulfurous fire from יהוה out of heaven— annihilating those cities and the entire Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities and the vegetation of the ground. Lot’s wife looked back, and she thereupon turned into a pillar of salt.

Genesis 19:24-26

Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham That Sarah would suckle children! Yet I have borne a son in his old age.” Genesis 21:6,7

Early next morning Abraham took some bread and a skin of water, and gave them to Hagar. He placed them over her shoulder, together with the child, and sent her away. And she wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. When the water was gone from the skin, she left the child under one of the bushes, and went and sat down at a distance, a bowshot away; for she thought, “Let me not look on as the child dies.” And sitting thus afar, she burst into tears. God heard the cry of the boy, and a messenger of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heeded the cry of the boy where he is." Genesis 21:14-16


Other Posts from Words Have Wings about Parshat Vayera:

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