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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

The Storyteller

Parshat Eikev continues Moshe's speech to B'nai Yisrael as they prepare to cross the Jordan. Contained in Parshat Eikev there are a series of warnings about heeding the commandments, including the warning of withholding rain. The seven species are mentioned as well as remembering the manna in the desert. Moshe emphasizes that the people are not receiving the land because of their positive qualities; rather, it is the negative qualities of those already found in The Land that allows the Hebrews to conquer and settle.

Even with the many dramatic subjects covered in this week's parsha, what stands out poignantly to me is Moshe's voice. This is Moshe's story to tell and as I read the words, I cannot help but to hear undertones of his voice and his affect. Moses is one of the pivotal characters in this story. He is the leader, the teacher and the intermediary between the people and God. He is also the storyteller, and as the storyteller he was faced by a myriad of decisions as to how to present the story, how to portray characters, events as well as imparting moral and religious lessons.

The piece which follows is merely a description of a moment in time; exploring Moshe's potential mindset before, during and after his speech. I hope that you will join me in wondering about Moshe as he considered his speech. After these few short moments are over, as a follow-up, I would encourage you to think of your own individual stories. How would you begin your story? What would your story say? Who are the characters? What would you emphasize and what you fail to mention?

What is your tone and who will read your story?

In advance, Shabbat Shalom!



The Storyteller

The storyteller sits in silence.

A story long settled in his heart awaits its telling.

Memories swirl

and mix with images of people;

generations of people highlighted

but also people he would see each day.

There were so many places,

so hard to remember;

their edges as blurred as watercolor scenes.

The storyteller has much to tell

and little time.

He is the conduit and the voice,

the mood setter and the record keeper.

There are so many threads to be woven.

Thousands of words ready to emerge,

but choosing that first word is always the hardest

He stares at the walls, barely blinking.

Hands clasp and unclasp.

Minutes pass.

Where to begin?

What to include?

Who to exclude?

Who to glorify?

Who to demonize?

Who to remember?

Who to forget?

What to emphasize?

What to promote?

When to warn and when to praise?

When to chide and when to encourage?

When to teach and when to preach?

He considers.

His ending is already in sight.

One story,

His story.

So many names and places.

The storyteller leans the weight of his head into his hands.

He closes his eyes and focuses.

Moments pass

a little while more for indecision,


while the words order themselves,

slowly taking shape in his head.

And so, with fits and starts, the story begins to emerge.

Characters sketched, events recalled.

He can see them in his mind,

clear as if it were yesterday.

Sometimes he paints them in pastels,

but frequently he paints in dark tones.

He is present,

and in his mind,

there they are,

back again.

It is his story,

It is their story.

As the words emerge

his tone takes shape;

sometimes gentle,

often with frustration,

even with great anger

and occasional pride,

for aren’t we all allowed

just a little pride?

Sometimes nostalgia slips in

and then there is love for a people

declared hastily,

but it is deep love;

poignant and red.

Once the storyteller begins

It is so hard to stop

telling the story,

for the storyteller knows

when his story is done;

sealed and delivered to The Editor,

he is truly finished.

There will be nothing more to say

and he will be emptied.

Emptied of his story.

He will be finished.

A few more words to go.

His story has been written.

There are no regrets.

He would do it all again.

The storyteller is so very weary and he wonders

Who will read his story?

The storyteller lays his head down heavily on his hands.

He closes his eyes.

He is finished.

Take care lest you forget your God and fail to keep the divine commandments, rules and laws which I enjoin upon you.

Deuteronomy 8:11

It is not because you are the most numerous of peoples that יהוה grew attached to you and chose you—indeed, you are the smallest of peoples;

Deuteronomy 9:7

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