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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

We are Family

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

As much as I want to write happy and fun poems about next week's parsha, Parshat Toldot, I have always found the story of Ya'akov and Esav to be so tragic. M'farshim create an unsavory description of Esav in the Midrash, and at this point relationships and family is ripped apart. I understand that my reading is not taking into accounts that events build upon each other in God's plan for leadership, but I also see inherent in the text the very human problems that are exhibited in this parsha. Favoritism and scheming are part of the fabric of Parshat Toldot. Through these jealousies and plans we have seen generations of division and enmity. This is no small thing.

This poem, called "We are Family" is based on Genesis 25:26 (translation from Sefaria)

וַיֶּאֱהַ֥ב יִצְחָ֛ק אֶת־עֵשָׂ֖ו כִּי־צַ֣יִד בְּפִ֑יו וְרִבְקָ֖ה אֹהֶ֥בֶת אֶֽת־יַעֲקֹֽב׃

Isaac favored Esau because he had a taste for game; but Rebekah favored Jacob.

We Are Family

We are a family

Sitting in a home or a tent

by a stove or a hearth

We sit together or apart

Our mannerisms similar

Our eyes the same shape and color

Eyes that reflect in each other's

Or eyes that don't meet

as we stare down at the table

One child is like you

stubborn, strong, decisive

your chin, your eyes

proud and outgoing

and one is unlike you

as oil is to water

less certain, studious and serious

You struggle to find a way to connect

We are just parents

Tripping down the road of best intentions

We bring our imperfect selves

delivered to the alter of parenting

Our likes and dislikes set long ago

Branded into us since our childhoods

We are our parent's parenting

L'dor vador

We dance the uneven dance of parenthood

The endless waltz of our responsibilities

Days pile up to years

Moments of sweet connection

but so many misses

Unintentional mistakes

Showing favorites

One child at the expense of the other

A look at one and not the other

a missed glance

a raised eyebrow

a frown where a smile should be

a pat on the back that never came

a tear not wiped away

Empty air where a hug should have been

Stingy with our praise

Generous with our criticism

We turn away

Ignoring the hurt in our children's eyes

We can't help ourselves


With love we chip away


With love we push too much


With love we want our children to be us


With love we smash instead of build


With love we create jealousy and enmity


With love we divide instead of unite


With love our children are divided

Two parents

Two loves

Two nations

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