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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash


Updated: Nov 30, 2022

The book of Genesis is filled with stories of siblings. From Cain and Abel, through Isaac and Yishmael, Jacob and Esau, we see one dysfunctional family situation after another. Perhaps the Torah's message is theological; that God has a plan and we fit not so neatly into that plan or perhaps the Torah is asking us to expect the realistic outcomes of our lives; that we are human and flawed and our relationships, in turn, will be flawed. Maybe we are being asked to do better than the Avot and Imahot. It is hard to know.

Parshat Vayeitzei differs from other stories in Genesis in that it deals with the relationship of sisters. Rachel and Leah are introduced to us in this parsha. Their father, Lavan, perhaps an unscrupulous character, marries the sisters off to the same man which complicates the already complicated life of siblings.

For the next few moments I would like to examine the complicated world of siblings. For those of you reading this post, who have siblings, perhaps you will recognize yourselves in this series of poems. Whether relationships with siblings are healthily maintained or break over time, for some magical time in our lives, our siblings were everything to us as we created worlds together.




To be a sibling

is to share a catalog

of memories.

Sibs are your other half,

or third



without them you are minimized;

a tiny file

in the corner of the monitor.

With them you are

the complete set,

the encyclopedia of Us-ness

the dictionary of We-ness

and the Complete Reference Guide

to the Musketeer Universe.



Not to over romanticize



a cup of


red wine


with shared experiences.

Shades of

cinnamon and cloves

lemon and honey.

Not to over romanticize

Sometimes with

Siblings the cup overflows.

Out pours vinegar,

sour smelling

and biting.

Resentment boils over.

Stains of envy

never wash out.



Siblings are wallpaper


peeling away

the layers of paper

we‘ve added over the years.

the bold stripes

peeled off


the colors of life’s stages

ripped from the walls


leaving us as we were


scabby kneed,

mosquito bitten,

kids in baggy socks

looking for attention.




can walk away forever

leaving a ragged cut


cracked sepia family photos.

Historical markers

that appear so happy.

Forced smiles

in portraits

disguise what lies beneath;

mistakes that cannot


papered over.




no matter the age

remain fuzzy

young pups

warmed by each other,

yet blind;



to find the warmest space

close to their mom.

***** Six

Siblings are home,

whatever home might mean.

No matter where you are

or what your age

or your station in life;

when you are with your siblings

you are home.




I had a sister.

It was a lifetime ago.

I remember her brown hair,

her sharp eyes

her laugh.

Old songs she sang.

And then life interrupted

and we became sisters

in name alone.


whose history


a mere trickle

of a teardrop.

Salt leaving

white rivulets

on cheeks

growing wrinkled

with age.

Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older one was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.

Leah had weak eyes; Rachel was shapely and beautiful.

Genesis 29:16-17 Translation from Sefaria

וּלְלָבָ֖ן שְׁתֵּ֣י בָנ֑וֹת שֵׁ֤ם הַגְּדֹלָה֙ לֵאָ֔ה וְשֵׁ֥ם הַקְּטַנָּ֖ה רָחֵֽל׃

וְעֵינֵ֥י לֵאָ֖ה רַכּ֑וֹת וְרָחֵל֙ הָֽיְתָ֔ה יְפַת־תֹּ֖אַר וִיפַ֥ת מַרְאֶֽה׃

When morning came, there was Leah! So he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I was in your service for Rachel! Why did you deceive me?”

Laban said, “It is not the practice in our place to marry off the younger before the older.

Genesis 29:25-26 Translation from Sefaria


For inspiration and learning this week I listed to Matan's One on One podcast with Dr. Yael Ziegler.

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