This is All We Know of Er – A poem for Parsha Vayeshev (Aliyah 4)

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Now Er, Judah's firstborn, was evil in the eyes of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death.

Genesis 38:7

This is all we know of Er –
that he was evil and put to death
the nature of his evil, conjecture.

This is all we know of Er –
Judah’s son, Joseph’s nephew
husband to Tamar.

What he did remains a mystery.
Did he murder? Did he steal?
did he covet?

Did he jaywalk? No,
they didn’t have traffic lights then.
It couldn’t be that.

This is all we know of Er –
that whatever he did then was
not what should have been done

even though we might do it now
because our sensibilities are different,
we have traffic lights after all.

This is all we know of Er – though
our great interpreter suggested he
spilled his seed on the ground

which could have been an accident
you never know when the ground
is going to come along

and these days, with seed being
spilled all over the place, it
doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.

It’s possible the people who
wrote Er’s story invented the idea
that your brother should take over

for you if you are put to death, or die –
All the things you would have done
All the places you would have

put your seed, now their responsibility.
This is all we know of Er.
It is so little.

These poems are offered free for your enjoyment. If you use them as part of an event, meeting, educational or liturgical setting, please consider tipping the author.

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