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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

We Wear the Memory of Freedom

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

Parshat Bo, to be read next Shabbat, is at the heart of Judaism. This is the Parsha that we re-live each year on Passover. This is our story of freedom and it is the story we passionately recall not only during the seder but most mornings when we lay tefillin. The experience of winding tefillin on our arms, our hands and between our eyes is a way to cement the experience of the Exodus on a daily basis. Laying tefillin is a powerful tactile exercise of remembering a collective experience, the love of God and not taking freedom for granted. It is fitting that I post this poem on Martin Luther King Day.

May we internalize the value of freedom every day and may Dr. King's memory be for a blessing always.


We wear the memory of freedom

We carry the weight of the covenant

between our eyes

Our chosenness adheres to our hearts

We bind the redemption of our people around our arms

As we don tefillin we become part of the Exodus

with the intimate knowledge of being a stranger

We see the blood on the lintels of our doors

and remember the night time rush to the unknown

We feel the weight of the unrisen dough in our hands

and the hot sands under our feet as we depart

We witness the sea before us opening

We feel the thrill, the fear, the faith

As we bind tefillin we recall our own enslavement

We bind to recall miracles

We bind to affirm the belief that change is possible

We bind to encourage hope

We bind to say that we believe

We bind to connect to God

The winding dance of the Shin, the Dalet, the Yud

At the dawn of each morning we cleave

to a collective memory of redemption;

a warm embrace of skin and leather

As we wrap the leather straps around our fingers

currents spark through our bodies.

We are knotted, we are bound, we are woven

We are a human circuit board connected to You

Multiple points of connection each reaching

to The Source

Sending forth endless emanations of energy

Transporting us onto those pathways through the desert

to blessed freedom and promised redemption

Exodus 13:16. Translation from Sefaria

וְהָיָ֤ה לְאוֹת֙ עַל־יָ֣דְכָ֔ה וּלְטוֹטָפֹ֖ת בֵּ֣ין עֵינֶ֑יךָ כִּ֚י בְּחֹ֣זֶק יָ֔ד הוֹצִיאָ֥נוּ יְהוָ֖ה מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃ (ס)

“And so it shall be as a sign upon your hand and as a symbol on your forehead that with a mighty hand the LORD freed us from Egypt.”

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