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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

The Squirrel and the Hawk

Updated: Oct 20, 2021

There is so much to write about in this parsha; so many topics that ask the readers to think, to cry and to participate in the text. As I walked Trixie yesterday and considered what to write about, I witnessed the squirrel and the hawk flying in the air. For Parshat Vayeira, the parsha of the Akeidah, a text that we still think about today, this seemed like a strange coincidence. The story of the Akeydah defines what faith can be and lays out an impossibly difficult question to Abraham. And what of Isaac in this piece as they climb that mountain?

For last year's poems on this parsha, please go to:

The Squirrel and the Hawk

Today I saw a squirrel carried through the air by a hawk as I walked down the street with my dog gently pulling me and I saw the movement through the corner of my eye.

I looked up.

The hawk climbed upward,

forceful and strong,

its wings pushing the air

as they climbed higher

upward and upward

over the cars.

Telephone wires crossed beneath them,

traffic flowed noisily

and the hawk gripped the squirrel

and the squirrel held onto him

in an ancient choreographed dance

And the squirrel’s wiry tail thrashed as though

it drummed the air

moving to the rhythm of his pulse;

faster and faster it went,

and although I could not see the squirrel’s eyes

as it searched the sky above him,

I knew how his black eyes must appear

in shock,

then in terror,

slow acceptance of his fate.

I could feel his heart beating.

And the hawk held the squirrel

and the squirrel held the hawk

as they rose upward higher and higher still

in a bizarre embrace.

And I watched

as they


into a the crown of

a tall oak



I saw


no more

and although I did not see the squirrel I understood how every moment of that climb


and higher

into the cerulean

blue of the Cheshvan

sky, into the yellowing

leaves of the oak

tree, into

the nest

of the

hawk. The

squirrel’s eyes grew wider and wider until at that last moment when the squirrel wished

a sparrow

or a crow would save him

but that was not to be.

It was his fate

on this day,

at this moment

to be sacrificed in a tall oak tree.

There was no angel,

there was no crow,

there was no sparrow,

only a hawk.

And perhaps it is no accident

that I saw this today,

during this week of the akedah.

And for all the things that I will forget about today,

the lunch that I ate,

the places I walked,

the words I read,

I know that I will remember this

like a small cold pebble settled in my heart,

like sand in my eyes,

I will remember the squirrel and the hawk.

And Abraham picked up the knife to slay his son.

וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֵלָ֜יו מַלְאַ֤ךְ יְהֹוָה֙ מִן־הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אַבְרָהָ֣ם ׀ אַבְרָהָ֑ם וַיֹּ֖אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי׃ Then an angel of the LORD called to him from heaven: “Abraham! Abraham!” And he answered, “Here I am.”

וַיֹּ֗אמֶר אַל־תִּשְׁלַ֤ח יָֽדְךָ֙ אֶל־הַנַּ֔עַר וְאַל־תַּ֥עַשׂ ל֖וֹ מְא֑וּמָה כִּ֣י ׀ עַתָּ֣ה יָדַ֗עְתִּי כִּֽי־יְרֵ֤א אֱלֹהִים֙ אַ֔תָּה וְלֹ֥א חָשַׂ֛כְתָּ אֶת־בִּנְךָ֥ אֶת־יְחִידְךָ֖ מִמֶּֽנִּי׃ And he said, “Do not raise your hand against the boy, or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your favored one, from Me.”

וַיִּשָּׂ֨א אַבְרָהָ֜ם אֶת־עֵינָ֗יו וַיַּרְא֙ וְהִנֵּה־אַ֔יִל אַחַ֕ר נֶאֱחַ֥ז בַּסְּבַ֖ךְ בְּקַרְנָ֑יו וַיֵּ֤לֶךְ אַבְרָהָם֙ וַיִּקַּ֣ח אֶת־הָאַ֔יִל וַיַּעֲלֵ֥הוּ לְעֹלָ֖ה תַּ֥חַת בְּנֽוֹ׃ When Abraham looked up, his eye fell upon abReading ’eḥad with many Heb. mss. and ancient versions; text ’aḥar “after.” ram, caught in the thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering in place of his son.

Genesis 22:10-13 (translation from Sefaria)

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