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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

The Empty Stage (Part 2)

In Parshat Vayeira women play an important role. Sarah expels Hagar and her son from the home of Avraham. Lot's wife turns into a pillar of salt. Lot's daughters lie their father when they believe that the world has ended. There is much intrigue, cruelty and injustice done to women in the book of Genesis, yet in many places it is women who drive the narrative.

Of all of the women of Genesis, it is Sarah whom we learn the most about. She is beautiful, very brave and crafty. She has a sense of humor. She is empathetic, but also can be cruel. She is pregnant at an old age. She is a prophetess, she is a mother.We know her when she is young, we go through life's travails with her and we imagine her when she learns of her only child's possible sacrifice.

This poem speaks to the women of Parshat Vayeira. They are fierce.

Part 2. The Empty Stage

Three women have left the stage.

They shared it for such a short time.

A princess, a handmaiden and a pillar of salt.

And on that stage,

which had a desert set complete with a donkey

and a ram on a mountaintop,

time stood still as each had their moment in the spotlight.

The script was written with drama and intrigue.

Journeys to the unknown,

fire and brimstone,


unkind words,

acts of unspeakable violence,

unexpected visits

unsolicited laughter,

and salty tears.

The quiet victims in the plot line



Sons and daughters,

sacrificed and threatened,

all victims,

all scarred;

surrounded by women

who fought for them

from their core.

Heartbreak was the thread that connected the three.

Whether you loved these women

or hated them,

questioned their decisions or motives,

we still remember them.

Their presence looms large on the stage;

Especially the grand dame;

the beauty,

the princess,

the woman who laughed at angels,

the woman who lived a miracle.

At each point in her storied career she broke the mold.

And although her career spanned more than a century,

its ending was a bombshell,

shocking audiences around the globe,

then and even now

in a story that is read and re-read.

Three women exited the stage,

some in tragedy, some in ignominy,

perhaps they should have received a standing ovation,

for without them the plot would not unfold

and the show would not go on.


יהוה 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’swife looked back,*back and she thereupon turned into a pillar of salt.

Genesis 19:24-26. (Translation from Sefaria)


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.

Genesis 21:14-16 (Translation from Sefaria)


As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, I. know what a beautiful woman you are.

If the Egyptians see you, and think, ‘She is his wife,’ they will kill me and let you live.

Please say that you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that I may remain alive thanks to you.”

Genesis 11-13

Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years; Sarah had stopped having her periods.*her periods

And Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “Now that I’ve lost the ability,“I am withered,” trad. “I am waxed old.” am I to have enjoyment—with my husband so old?”

Genesis18: 11-12


The photo above is one I took of my mother. I used it because she reminds me here of a leading lady in the theater.


2020's poem for Parshat Vayeira

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