• Leann Shamash

The Symphony

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

#hunger #josephstory #egypt #symphony #refugees #rice #corn #wheat #dwindlingsupplies #tempo #amounts #guarding


One of the themes of Parshat Miketz is hunger. Of course, we also read about Joseph who is the interpreter of dreams and we experience the drama of Joseph's brothers caught up in a masquerade as Joseph both feeds them and tricks them to bring his brother Benjamin and his father to Egypt. The underlying theme throughout the Parshah though is hunger. Joseph is made the hunger czar in Egypt and prepares for the seven years of drought and hunger. Jacob and his sons and their families suffer from hunger, so they travel to Egypt where they have heard there is food.

Hunger still exists in every corner of the world. Drought still creates conditions of hunger and there is hunger in our communities as well. Covid 19 has created pockets of hunger in every community. I hope that this small poem brings the eternal issue of hunger to our attention.


The Symphony


Hunger is a symphony

With food on our plates it is but a soft hum in the background

Pianissimo, barely heard above our complacency

A hint of a melody

Our bellies satisfied, we do not perceive the music

It is a mere tickle in our ears

As though hunger does not exist.


Sometimes hunger arrives stealthily

Adagio

We listen, alert and on edge

Eyes wide open, mouths hunting

We watch and pray as our pantries empty

Flour, rice, corn

We measure and conserve

Forever watchful of amounts

Guarding what is ours

or sharing what we have

as our reserves dwindle

the music builds in tempo

Our ears now perceive the sounds

Louder and louder

the strings play

Point and counterpoint

The drums beat steadily, reflecting fear


When hunger is upon us

There is no escaping the music

It pounds in our ears,

Horns and drums, strings and brass

A crescendo of sound

Inhabits our bellies, our minds,

It consumes us, our ears, our eyes

Forte, fortissimo

Louder and louder it pounds


There is no escaping the music

It plays in all of its glorious terror

We can only flee from its clutches

Travel to a place of plenty

Of bread, of rice, of corn

Of food for our children

Food is the rhythm of life

Wherever food is, we move to the music

Our feet take us

We are the percussion, we set the beat

We follow others in the symphony of hunger

Our bellies lead us, always hopeful

Step over step, step over step

We are famished, we are driven

to the lands where there is food

to a place where the music is gentler




Genesis 41:55, 56. (Translation from Sefaria)

וַתִּרְעַב֙ כָּל־אֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם וַיִּצְעַ֥ק הָעָ֛ם אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֖ה לַלָּ֑חֶם וַיֹּ֨אמֶר פַּרְעֹ֤ה לְכָל־מִצְרַ֙יִם֙ לְכ֣וּ אֶל־יוֹסֵ֔ף אֲשֶׁר־יֹאמַ֥ר לָכֶ֖ם תַּעֲשֽׂוּ׃ And when all the land of Egypt felt the hunger, the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread; and Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Jo-seph; whatever he tells you, you shall do.”—

וְהָרָעָ֣ב הָיָ֔ה עַ֖ל כָּל־פְּנֵ֣י הָאָ֑רֶץ וַיִּפְתַּ֨ח יוֹסֵ֜ף אֶֽת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֤ר בָּהֶם֙ וַיִּשְׁבֹּ֣ר לְמִצְרַ֔יִם וַיֶּחֱזַ֥ק הָֽרָעָ֖ב בְּאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃ Accordingly, when the famine became severe in the land of Egypt, Joseph laid open all that was within, and rationed out grain to the Egyptians. The famine, however, spread over the whole world.











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