DEPARTURE (CHAYYEI SARAH)
I'd never been further from home
than Aram of Two Rivers
where the Tigris and Euphrates
flow together in a muddy swirl
sometimes on market day
I'd buy figs, shallots, garlic
sometimes there were traders
with bolts of indigo
but mostly I knew our homestead
the smoke-stained oven, the paddocks
where we penned the goats
to stay safe overnight
and now this camel's steady gait
rocks me step by step across the scrub
toward a distant cousin, a stranger
who will welcome me into his tent
my father and brother blessed me
that I might grow into myriads
I can hardly imagine
another heart beneath my own
This week we're reading parashat Chayyei Sarah, the parsha with the ironic name: though its first two words mean "Sarah's lifetime" (or "the lives of Sarah"), the parsha begins with her death. The woman for whom the parsha is named appears in these columns of text only to be buried.
One of the central stories of this parsha is the story of how Abraham's servant (commonly known as Eliezer) goes back to the land where Abraham came from in order to find a wife for Isaac. That's the story I chose to focus on for this week's parsha poem.
The text doesn't give us many details about Rebecca. Eliezer prays that the woman who offers him water and offers to water his camels be the one he's looking for, which raises fascinating questions of how we discern the right course of action in an unknown situation. We know that she is beautiful, and she is generous with water and with her time. Once her father and brother agree that she should go with Eliezer, her brother and mother ask that she allowed to remain for ten days, but Eliezer asks to leave right away, and Rebecca acquiesces.
That's pretty much all we get, so this week's Torah poem explores some of what might have been going on in her mind as this story unfolds. What resonates for you, reading the story of Rebecca's departure from home?
I didn't manage to write to this week's ReadWritePoem prompt, which has to do with repurposing images from dreams, but here's a link to this week's Get Your Poem On post in case you'd like to see what other RWP folks wrote this week.
By the way, if you enjoy these Torah poems: allow me to recommend Awkward Offerings. Sue Swartz offers a variety of musings on Torah, including a series of Torah poems which are very different from mine and also quite wonderful. You can subscribe to the blog, or check out her index of Torah/Poetry, as you prefer.