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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Thirty Eight Years

To begin this week’s post, if you are old enough, I ask you to do the math and bring yourself back 38 years. I wrote this on July 9, which would bring us to July 9, 1986.

1986 seems like forever ago. It might take you a while, but the exercise is helpful and helps illustrate how things change over time, people, places, and lifestyles.

I am writing about 38 years this week because in between Parshat Korach and Parshat Chukat, this week’s Parsha, 38 years elapse. 38 years of radio silence. What occurred during these 38 years? For starters, the original generation died off and a new generation was born. Other than births and deaths, there seem to be no events worth reporting, so this long period goes by in silence.

What must those years have been like? What might have been daily activities of the people? Was life dull or did they find ways to pass their days, as people do? Was community built? Did people feel that their purpose in life had been erased? What could their mindset have been?

This short poem is a reflection on 38 years gone by. Looking back, it seems a lifetime ago.

May we live each of our days to the fullest.

May we hear good news soon.


PS By concentrating on the 38 years, I have missed other huge events in Parshat Chukat, including the deaths of Aaron and Miriam, the enigma of the red heifer and Moses' fate not to enter The Land after he neglects to follow directions of God to provide the community with water. Read Parshat Chukat here


38 years

dreams were technicolor then

the moon was brighter

nothing seemed impossible

38 years

some were once at the table and one day, another,

their seats gaped empty and then



fresh faces took their seats at the table,


you remember where your father sat,

he sat right there

and she stood at that sink

suds on her hands,


38 years


the days were so long

and laundry piled on beds

mountains of laundry,

unpaired socks and tiny superhero underpants

your arms always full,

bags of groceries and children


chattered like monkeys

until you covered your ears,

closed your eyes tight, for

just a bit of peace,

quiet, please.

Now it is so quiet.

38 years.

The snow was deeper then

summers so sweet

and time seemed to stretch


on a wavy ribbon of forever,


You've learned,

haven't you,

that human time doesn't stretch on forever,


it just takes you on a bumpy ride,

longer at the beginning,

but then shorter

and shorter

each day.

Only nights remain long.

I'll do it tomorrow.

I'll do it tomorrow.


I promise

Because 38 years seems like forever.


For more on the lost 38 years:

The Forgotten 38 Years


Other entries on Words Have Wings on Parshat Chukat


וַיָּבֹ֣אוּ בְנֵֽי־יִ֠שְׂרָאֵ֠ל כּל־הָ֨עֵדָ֤ה מִדְבַּר־צִן֙ בַּחֹ֣דֶשׁ הָֽרִאשׁ֔וֹן וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב הָעָ֖ם בְּקָדֵ֑שׁ וַתָּ֤מת שָׁם֙ מִרְיָ֔ם וַתִּקָּבֵ֖ר שָֽׁם׃

The Israelites arrived in a body at the wilderness of Zin on the first new moon, and the people stayed at Kadesh. Miriam died there and was buried there.

Bamidbar 20:1

M'farshim on the 38 years

(Rashi on this Pasuk): כל העדה. עֵדָה הַשְּׁלֵמָה, שֶׁכְּבָר מֵתוּ מֵתֵי מִדְבָּר וְאֵלּוּ פֵרְשׁוּ לַחַיִּים:

כל העדה [THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL], EVEN THE WHOLE CONGREGATION — The congregation in its entirety, for those who were to die in the wilderness in consequence of their sin had already died, but these had been expressly mentioned for life (cf. Rashi on v. 22).

(Ibn Ezra on this Pasuk): בחדש הראשון. בשנת הארבעים והנה אין בתורה כלל שום מעשה או נבואה רק בשנה הראשונה ובשנת הארבעים:

IN THE FIRST MONTH. In the fortieth year. Look, the Torah does not contain any act or prophecy except in the first and the fortieth year.

(Chizkuni on this Pasuk): ויבאו בני ישראל, “The Children of Israel arrived, etc.;” the arrival of which the Torah speaks were was during the fortieth year of their wanderings. Their lengthy detour around the territory of Edom who had denied them passage and whom G-d had not allowed them to harass in any way, had now been completed. It had commenced at Kadesh Barnea, and was concluded in the desert of Tzin.


וַיָּבֹ֣אוּ בְנֵֽי־יִ֠שְׂרָאֵ֠ל

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Jul 11

38 years ago .. our 10 th wedding anniversary .. life raising kids and celebrating all our Jewish holidays at our parents’ homes building on tradition . Then, I was not thinking about or worried as much about politics ( NYT) , but the most touching part of your beautiful poem is about time . Time seemed infinite and now there is never enough time is a time for internal reflection .. thinking feeling and doing . 38 years … wow! I love your poem and will read it over and over again. Thank you, Leann. 💕


Jul 10

This is a memorable wow for the gut, the mind and the heart. Poignant ❤️

Jul 10
Replying to

Yes, writing it made me go back in time....

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