Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Aftermath of Noah’s Flood, Freely Adapted and Improved from Gen. 6-9

The Aftermath of Noah’s Flood, Freely Adapted and Improved from Gen. 6-9

By David Hartley Mark


…Following the devastations of the Flood, after the Mighty Vessel had come to rest on Mount Ararat, Captain Noah wished to learn if the flood-waters had receded, for God had become silent. He opened the Ark-window and sent forth a Raven, well-known as a Messenger between Heaven and Earth, though often a Portent of Warfare—for God had warred on Humanity for its alleged sins, and Humanity had lost, before the Power of God.

The Raven swooped and climbed, but was unable to find a dry nesting-place in the World of Wet. The Raven doubted whether Humanity could ever restore itself to its former greatness, after its Age of Sin—though whether Humanity had ever truly sinned or not, we will never know.

After all, if it were true, why then did God allow people to live for such astonishing lengths of years, and beget so many sons and daughters? Why allow Humanity to multiply in Sin?

“When Seth had lived 105 years, he begot Enosh. After the birth of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and begot sons and daughters. All the days of Seth came to 912 years; then, he died.
“When Enoch had lived 65 years, he begot Methuselah. After the birth of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years; and he begot sons and daughters. …All the days of Methuselah came to 969 years; then, he died” (Gen. 5:6-27)

 And why had the Almighty allowed the Sons of God to descend to Earth to cohabit with the Daughters of Men (Gen. 6:1-4)? Truly, a great deal has been lost from Biblical records, both Earthly and Celestial, since the Flood….

After all the animals and humans had left the Ark, Noah, the tiller of the soil, was first to plant a vineyard. He plowed, tilled, and sowed the seeds, harvested the grapes, distilled wine from them, drank the wine, and became drunk. Overheated from the wine, he unclothed himself in the tent. And Ham was first to enter, and beheld his father, unclothed.

Uncertain what to do—for his father was first of Humanity to be drunken, and Ham was uncertain how to deal with the situation—Ham left the tent, in order to seek the counsel of his brethren. And they said,

“You had been best to cover our father, for he did not know the power of alcohol, to cause a grown man to behave in such an animal fashion.”

And Ham wept, and refused to visit his father again, while Noah lay in such a condition; for Ham had always respected his father, and looked up to him as a role model. So it is, when youth recognize for the first time, that their elders are merely flesh and blood, and subject to mistakes and poor judgment.

Instead, Shem and Japeth, the Eldest and the Youngest, entered the tent, walking backward, and laid a blanket over their now-unconscious, inebriated father.

And when Noah arose, hung over but aware, he attempted to curse Ham, for seeing him in a State of Shame—but Shem and Japeth spoke, and said,

“No, not so, Father! For we will not abide your curse. Our brother Ham respects you fully, and owes you obeisance, as a proper son ought to do; as do we all. Instead, we repudiate any curse you put upon him; for, if you curse him, let the curse lie upon us all, that we be doomed to hate one another, for reasons of Color, Race, or Creed, and this Eternal Curse forever afflict Humankind, until an Age of Understanding may dawn.”

And Noah spoke, and said:

“The Curse will stand. For a Curse, once uttered, cannot return, or be retracted.”

And that is why a state of Hatred, War, and Rancor exists, among the races, and why we all must work for Peace.

And the Dove returned to the Ark—but, finding no animals or mortals within, went off to seek Noah and his Family—but they were gone: off to the Land of Nod (Wandering), to find a place where all could dwell in Peace, and Safety, and Harmony. This cannot occur, for such a Place does not exist naturally; we must work for it.

This could not be, due to Noah’s Curse.

Instead, the Dove went to seek the Raven. She found him, building a nest, in the Land of Moab, far from Ararat, where the Ark came to rest. For only the Raven knew that Moab, a people related to, but despised by Israel, would produce Ruth, a Jew-by-Choice, who was to be King David’s great-grandmother. So it is that Enemies become Friends. Such is the Way of the World.

“I am the Symbol of Peace,” she said, in her weak, dovish voice, “What is my role in this New World? How and when will Humankind work for Peace?”

And the Raven counseled her: “As I am Messenger ‘twixt Earth and Heaven, so can I prophesy: Noah’s work is done. His family will populate the Earth, but will produce no leaders. Fly away, Little Dove, and wait awhile.
“Far-off, in the Land of Ur of the Chaldees, another man will come forth, with his family—himself, his wife, and nephew: Abram his name, and Sarai hers. The World turns; the Biblical epic evolves, and God will use him. I, the Raven, prophesy that he will preach the One True God.”

“Will Abram bring Peace?” the Dove asked.

“Not yet,” the Raven spoke, “But, perhaps, in God’s good time….”


Thursday, October 27, 2016

We're Losing Our Jewish Youth: Engaging the Wilderness Generation, 2nd Millennium BCE

A Conversation with Moses: Engaging the Wilderness Generation, c. Late 2nd Millennium BCE
“Big Tabernacle Judaism: Embracing Manna, Expanding Torah”

As Conceptualized by
David Hartley Mark

Based on Imaginary
Quantitative Methods,
Qualitative Methodology,
And Torah Midrash

            Big Tabernacle Judaism began a project around Shavuote, late 2nd Millennium BCE (taking into consideration that Shavuote was probably begun much later, following the Conquest of Canaan, or the Gradual Infiltration thereof), to see whether the Dor HaMidbar (Wilderness Generation), as opposed to the Dor HaYetziah (Exodus Generation—those who had actually witnessed the Alleged Miracles of the Plagues, the Exodus, and the Sea of Reeds) had the same allegiance to the Israelite Lord God.

            What, exactly, do these young people, born in the Wilderness and fed on manna, do, that makes them feel Hebraic, beyond attending services and sacrifices at the Tent of Meeting (Ohel Mo’ed), keeping kosher, or celebrating proto-holidays?

            The study was chaired by Moses (of course), but the actual work was done by Joshua, assisted by Betzalel and Oholiab, with some advisory work by Caleb ben Jephunneh, and contractual advice from Jethro, Moses’s father-in-law, who had done similar work among his congregation in Midian, where he served as high priest. Interested readers and graduate students from Cairo University of the Priests of On or the Floating College of Philistia may go to


            Here are the results that we achieved, following nearly forty days and nights of queries, carried out by the Sons of Izhar and those Sons of Korach who did not go down alive into Sheol, Hell:

·         Wilderness Generationites (“WilGens”) are less in awe of Moses, since they did not witness the “signs and wonders” which he carried out “in the Name of the Almighty God,” but only heard about from their parents and grandparents
·         WilGens are less likely than Exodus Generationites (“ExGens”) to remain faithful to Moses, and, afterwards, to Joshua; this is probably a natural decline. However, it does not bode well for the future of the People. Ways must be found to increase WilGen loyalty; possibly, through additional Signs and Wonders. Perhaps a Committee of Priests and Elders could approach God--?
·         WilGens do a great deal of introspection regarding the future of the People. They often report temptation to join with Moabites or Hittites, who have a better-established civilization, as well as “flashier” modes of worship—orgies, tastier sacrifices, better music, fewer restrictions, etc.
·         Even those who are Hebraically active report that Hebraism is not sufficient for their spiritual needs; it is dull, restrictive, repetitive, and “too much like Grampa’s Hebraism”
·         WilGens enjoy experimentation, and tend to shy away from the Tabernacle-only mode of Hebraism. They don’t see Aaron or his sons as “relevant to today’s happening spirituality,” and are particularly drawn to the Cult of Dagon, the Philistine corn-fish-god, with its orgies, dance, song, and half-clad priestesses. The Philistine Open House Temple Approach to other faith- and ethnic groups has been very successful; perhaps we should have a Study Committee to examine this approach.
·         WilGen girls and young women report that they feel suppressed in their worship, and desire more self-expression, as, for example, among the Greek Amazons. There is a report that the Amazons have sent missionary-style messengers to our young female folk, and this represents a danger to our progeny’s future.
·         Finally, what is Hebraism? We don’t really have a written code or law, other than the Torah, and this has yet to be completed. Just one book—Vayikra, or Leviticus, the Priestly Code, and some smatterings of Beraysheet, Genesis, is hardly sufficient.


Recommendations:

·         Do Outreach to WilGens and offer them—limited, of course—leadership positions. A National Wilderness Generation Youth Fellowship Organization (NeWiGYaFO) is a good idea, provided that it does not affect the main direction of the Hebraism Movement, which must remain under the complete control of Moses, Aaron, and the Elders.
·         Try to work with the wealthier members of the community to fund educational trips within the Tabernacle for deserving Israelite Youth, to create the impression that Priests and Levites are willing to share certain aspects of their privileges, but don’t let this get out of hand.
·         Try to include Moabite, Hittite, and Philistine members of the community within the worship model, within the parameters of Hebraic Law, as articulated by Moses. This is a delicate area, and should be coordinated with the Elders.
·         Work on Social Justice, always a safe zone, to involve other faith groups.
·         Emphasize different aspects of the Harvest, to underplay the temptation for WilGens to participate in foreign faith orgies. This is crucial.
·         Finally, be open and transparent, while not too too.


Signed,

Rabbi Moses
General Joshua

For the Wilderness Generation Outreach Committee
Desert of Zin
2nd Millennium BCE


Girl, Formerly Chasidic: The Essence of Far Too Many Novels, Nowadays

A Precis of Any One of Several Recent Novels Featuring Former Chasidic Women Who, for Remarkably Similar Reasons, Have Left the Fold and are Suffering Innumerable Self-Inflicted Spiritual Punishments, Which the Writer Shares in Excruciating Detail

By David Hartley Mark

            Barbara, nee Brucha, awoke from a drug- and alcohol-induced slumber. Wearing the sheerest of teddies, she partly flung off the Isaac Mizrahi silken sheets that covered her recumbent, voluptuous form, nourished by any manner of trafe delicacies—foods that, years before, as a granddaughter of the renowned Farbissiner Rebbe, she would have died, rather than allow them to pass through her lips. Looking over, she saw dark hair and beard, and heard gentle snoring—who was it?

            Was it Achmed, her classmate from the Institute for Worldwide Spirituality, whom she darkly believed to be a secret spy for the SISI International Terrorist Network, and whom she suspected of having seduced her in order to gain the secrets of the Farbissiner Chasidic Dynasty’s ability to organize Jews, worldwide?

            Was it Rolfe, international playboy and gambler, whom she had met at the gaming tables in Monte Carlo while there on a Chasidic Women’s Kosher Cooking Tour to promote her cookbook, Chasidic Cooking Done Continentally, and whose diamond-sharp, flashing eyes had caught hers while she was playing the casino’s only rabbinically-approved roulette wheel—one which provided separate numbers for men and women?

            “You’re not just another roll of the dice, Brucha,” he had whispered into her ear after deftly lighting her English Oval with a gold-toned Zippo. Later, in bed in his suite overlooking the harbor, he told her that his real name was Raphael, and that he was actually an Israeli double agent, there in Monaco to follow the trail of Arab petrodollars financing a string of arms dealerships from Russia to China to Saudi Arabia….

            Was it—? But she turned over, away from the mysterious bedmate, and saw before her, spread over the pages of The Times of Jerusalem, a quantity of white powder, along with a thousand-shekel bill—before she could stop herself, she snorted a quantity of what she thought was the finest Bolivian marching powder, this side of Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn….

            --and began sneezing violently, having forgotten that her suitor, whoever he was, had a terrible tendency to chafing, and that he had applied a liberal amount of Mennen baby powder to his delicates, prior to dropping off, like her, into a drug-induced sleep.

            The phone rang. Forgetting her resolution not to pick up any phones when her brain was aswirl, she reached out and picked it up. The sound of heavy breathing immediately gave it away: it was her Aunt Lolly, who had raised her from birth, after a sinister Havdalah assassination, in which a renegade Mallomar Chasid had penetrated the Farbissiner enclave during Maariv, the Shabbos-departing Evening Service, and sprinkled a lighter fluid-fertilizer-mix on her rabbi-father’s ceremonial candle, which exploded, tragically doing away with Farbissiner Grand Rabbi Onan Tembel-Farmisht, his Rebbetzin Bankiss, and several of their eighteen children. Only Barbara, then known as Brucha, remained, having been invited to participate in a Women’s Tsena-Rena All-Night Study Fest, Siyum-HaSefer Party Following at dawn, featuring the Chai-Lites, the world’s only Chasidic Women’s Punk-Goth Band—Men Cordially Not Invited, since Hearing the Voices of Women Singing is Forbidden to Men.

            For her own safety, Brucha had been spirited away into the secretive worldwide Farbissiner Chasidic Network, and, after she was allowed out of the gunnysack-picklebarrel protective-traveling-device in which she had been spirited, found herself in London. She spent the next three years under an assumed name, colored her hair, and lived in a Modern Orthodox women’s seminary in Manchester. These extreme measures were, the Farbissiner Rabbinical Board decreed in the absence of a Chief Farbissiner Rabbi, necessary due to its being a matter of life and death—Pikuach Nefesh, in the Biblical and Talmudic sense.

            Alas, the Moderdox mode had a tragic effect on the formerly-cloistered Brucha, who began sneaking out with her sister scholars to enjoy such temptations of modern life as the Manchester Mall, the cinema, and the circus—this latter being known, since the Roman Era, as a powerful tempter of innocent Jewish Womanhood. Eventually, the young heir of the Farbissiner Empire was drawn, first to Moderdoxy, then to left-wing Moderdoxy—she even toyed, for a time, with becoming a MaHaRaT, or Female Orthodox Rabbi—but, finally, she took the fatal step of buying a maxidress of American Denim, and became a hotsy-totsy girl.

            Brucha—who took the name of Barbara, regarding her Hebrew-Yiddish name as a “slave name”—began smoking, wearing modern dress, associating with—horrors!—gentile men, and, eventually, moved back to New York City, where her personal exodus out of Chasidism—indeed, out of Judaism—became complete.

            “After all,” reasoned this remarkable young woman, “how could I go on worshiping a G-d—excuse me, God, not a G?d, G!d, or G*d—who could have allowed my dear parents to perish, while they were in the midst of performing one of His mitzvote, and, at the hands of yet another Chasid? I cannot continue to embrace such a cruel Deity, if such a Being exists.”

            And so, our heroine set out to discover her own Truth—if she were able to do so, in a space of some two to three-hundred pages, on the way meeting with any and all manner of men, and not a few women, for a variety of liaisons, spiritual, physical, and (of course) sexual, with a plethora of historical references, flashbacks to the Middle Ages, her education, her beloved parents and siblings, and, of course, the Holocaust.

            We could ask for no less….


            Good luck, Barbie! Or will it be Brucha? Who knows?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Beraysheet: Adam, Eve, God, and the Serpent: A New Narrative for a New Age

Beraysheet

By Rabbi David Hartley Mark

Scene: The Post-Edenic World. We see a humble Cabin built of clay and wattles, the dwelling-place of our First Parents, Adam and Eve. The door opens, and Eve enters, carrying the toddler Abel. She looks up at the Heavens, and addresses the silent Deity.

Eve:  Thank you, Lord God, for creating me second, on the Sixth and Final Day of Your Creation. The Man whom You have given me is headstrong, often to the point of muddleheadedness—he would lead us, but to what end? Still, I do love him, for trying. He insists on being in charge, whether we are naming animals or struggling to raise the two men-children with whom You have blessed us.

I will tell you freely, Lord: since our eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, our lives have grown more difficult. I do miss those halcyon days when we lived like children in Your Garden, eating of fruits we did not grow, splashing in Your river, and basking in Your sun. Still, I do value our free will. And our World beyond the fences of Eden is great, and green, and open. I pray that we will be worthy to tenant it for You.

Adam:  Before You brought me the Woman, Lord, I was lonely; there now, I admit it. True, my life was lazy and fun, and there was little to do; I lay around all day, nibbling fruit and trying to gnaw at the various grains You provided, but fruit by itself is a cloying diet, indeed.

Did the Woman tempt me, as the Serpent tempted her? Perhaps, but this results from being human, I realize now. We used to chat often, You, Lord, and I, but You have faded from my view. I must understand this new arrangement: You are God, we are mortal, and I will have to get used to it. Never mind; it’s time to go and tend the crops….

Eve:  Husband! Before you go out to our fields, can you not help me with the boys? Cain wants to come along with you. He admires you; you are his model. Baby Abel will stay behind; he is my pet, my mama’s boy, and I do love him. Abel keeps chasing after the goats and sheep—do you like what I named them? I just chose the names ‘goats’ and ‘sheep’ out of my mind. Abel keeps pretending that he can shepherd them about, using a long stick. The silly beasts don’t mind him; they seem to take after him. But Cain is his father’s boy, and will plow and dig and till the soil, as you do.

Adam:  Well, let Cain come along. Just be sure to give him a hat and shirt, against the springtime heat. With the serpent’s curse, came a change in weather. We must adapt, my sweetest Eve.

Eve:  It does give me a—warm feeling, when you call me that. Have we discovered love?

Adam:  Companionship more, I would call it—a sort of shared—obligation, to one another. Yes. That’s it (Looking around). Have you seen my shovel?

Eve (upset): How do you manage to always say the wrong thing, when I do so much to try and bring us closer? Oh, you make me so angry, so sad—

Adam (ever the Rationalist): Woman! The lot of man is endless labor. To plow the earth will be my burden.
            To raise our children is your function. Everyone to their work; it is our God’s will,
And, since you brought on us Creator’s Curse, I would hesitate to call emotions into our couplehood.
            I for God, and you for God in me, and all will go according to God’s plan.

(He shoulders his shovel, and goes out whistling, leaving her seething.)

Eve:     I cannot, will not, must not, subdue my selfhood,
            To any petty lordling’s willful arbitration;
            Did I disobey God? Perhaps; but we’re not robots,
            And free will planted in our minds by our Creator
            Is something real, and a feeling true and earnest,
            Which I manifested—not you, foolish creature!
            As I create new life, so I created
            New lives for us, which, though more difficult,
            Will, in the end, prove richer and more fruitful
            Than ever your Lord God’s original Eden.

(She exits; enter the Serpent, crawling on his belly, but looking self-satisfied at having accomplished his purpose. In the Jewish interpretation, of course, it is merely a serpent.)

The Serpent:

Now all awaits. Now here begins the Struggle
            Between our Original Parents and their descendants’ obligations
            Subduing Earth, and Sea, and Sky—but, more!
            Subduing both their passions
            To serve one another,
            Love one another,
            And the image
            Of God in him,
            Of God in her,
            And, eventually—
            God in all Humanity.
           
Did I do well, Lord God?
            Did I carry out Your will?
            O tell me!

The Lord:

I cannot tell: indeed, I must be silent
‘Til Time will riddle out My intertwining:
God’s will, free male- and female-will, and Fate.

            

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Kohelet/Ecclesiastes: A Midtown Bar Near Grand Central Terminal, Manhattan: What is the True Purpose of Life?

Kohelet

By David Hartley Mark

Scene: Midtown Bar near Grand Central Terminal, Manhattan. Jukebox Music. Noise. Post-5 pm, the after-work crowd. Mostly twenty-and thirty-somethings, in no hurry to catch the subway home to Brooklyn or Queens or the train to Long Island. A sixtyish man, hair dyed fashionably, temples graying, turns to the man at his side. He is lonely, in a lonely, faceless City, wanting only someone to talk to.

            Can I buy you another, Stranger? That John at the bar is a friend of mine—

“John! Can you get this guy another drink? What’s that, my friend? Stoli rocks? OK, John? Thanks, Buddy….”

My name? Ben. Ben Kohelet. Strange name, no? It’s Greek, I think; maybe Turkish. From the Middle East. Big mess out there, these days (drinks deeply). Mm…. John! Get me another Glenlivet, would you? Water side. (To the Stranger:) Single malt. The only way to go. Go in style. Yes.

What do I do? A little of this, a little of that—stocks, mostly. Hedge funds. That, and some day trading. “Have to be nimble,” as my Old Man told me. My Old Man? I doubt you’ve heard of him, but he did very well. Solomon Koenig was his name. Zalman, really, originally. A refugee, from Germany. Got out, just in time. Made it to this country, thank God; went back in the US Army, and fought in Europe. After the war, started with nothing, but, I suppose, his God was with him. You never know (drinks); you just never know.

Myself, I took what he left me, and I built on it. I was lucky; many were not. Lucky and smart. My generation, first beatniks, then hippies, wanted to seek the Higher Truth; I wanted something else, but I didn’t know what. I took my father’s legacy—it was mostly stocks, the usual stuff, and more than a few good ones—but, more than that. He was a survivor, in more ways than one. He had, despite my tendency toward bookishness and inwardness, given me a very, very practical education. He sent me to the finest universities and business schools. I was a good son; I listened; I didn’t rebel; I just went.

What is that song from the box, that they’re playing now? “Love for Sale”? Yes: in this world, I suppose that everything, including Love, can be a commodity….

But I digress. Because I was able to take my inheritance and add to it, I decided to conduct a sort of experiment. What is really important in Life? I asked myself. Just that day, back in the 1980s, in midtown Manhattan, there at the wheel of my Porsche—I could well afford a chauffeur, mind you, and did not mind using a service when I was en route to a business meeting, but I considered it to be something daring and sporting in driving myself through the concrete canyons of my native city—ha! Well, that must be the scotch talking—I found myself stuck in traffic, behind a Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit—I did love them, and owned a few, in my time. But then I saw it, all the gimcrack idealism of the 20th Century, on display on a bumper sticker, on the back of the Rolls-Royce, like a little, cosmic whisper from the Universe:

He Who Dies with the Most Toys, Wins.

--so I decided to see whether that was true, or not. I set out, the next day, which was Saturday—my Old Man’s holiest day of all—how odd that, in spite of his having been persecuted, hounded, and almost killed for his faith, he nonetheless kept the traditions, the best he could! I don’t mean Orthodox, but—well, Conservative, I suppose. Never mind: where was I?

I got up early and traveled to far-off Connecticut, having deliberately looked for a town with a history of anti-Semitism—I found one, called Grover’s Corners. With my exotic name, I had no trouble finding a realtor, convincing them I was descended from some European minor royalty, and buying a country estate of considerable acreage. Over the next year, I bulldozed the ancient mansion there standing, and hired the same landscape architect whose great-great-grandfather had designed Central Park. On his recommendation, I hired another to design my country manse, a veritable palace which I christened (ha!) “The Retreat.”

This was my House of Merriment. I held parties galore; one who does business with many inevitably attracts both acquaintances (I had no true friends) and toadies. My music played into the night. I had matinees and soirees. I did forbid the use of drugs, but there were legal intoxicants, certainly. This went on for months. Months stretched into years.

But, in the end, I said of property, “What is that?” And of all those parties, “What do I need them for?” So I rehired the expensive interior designer, and ripped out the billiards room—I was never any good at it; I was no pool player. I put in a rich, dark-mahogany-paneled library instead—I like to feel and smell a book in my hands.

I bought Philosophy and Religion and Skepticism and Doubt. I read up on Stephen Hawking and the atheist Richard Dawkins and Maimonides, Rabbis Soloveitchik, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and all the Jewish denominations. It didn’t make me any more religious, though there was this little Reconformative—so they called themselves, or “Just Jewish,” though they were left-wing; how could they be anything else?—temple in Grover’s Corners. How they got there decades before, what with all that snooty local social racism, I have no idea, but the temple was established after the war, when America was feeling existentially guilty about the Jews. I met with the rabbi—a lovely young lady named Rebekah Noviss—several times. She was young and idealistic, and, even though I knew more than she did about several subjects—after all, I could have been her father. Still, her enthusiasm won me over. I started attending a few times a month.

Can I refresh your drink? No? Oh, you have to be going? And you have a question for me? “What’s the purpose of life?” Oh, that’s a big one….

Well, Friend Stranger—funny, I never got your name, but what does it matter? Let me think—

I know a lot of people. I’ve shaken a lot of hands. And now, I’ve read a lot of books, and even learned a few prayers, but also renewed my acquaintance with some prayers that my Old Man tried to teach me, years ago. My Old Man (sighs)—no; let me call him my Poppa, because that’s what I called him, years ago: Old Solly, Solly Koenig, Shlomo ben Duvid oo’Bas-Sheva, his name was—funny, how I remembered it, the first time that Rabbi Noviss called me up to the Torah in that little shul in Grover’s Corners! Ha! Go figure—and my name is Binyomin. Yes. Binyomin. “Son of my father’s right hand.” Yes. Good.

And what I’ve learned, Stranger, is that the rich and the poor, well—they may not all live the same, but they all die the same. And the only thing that makes a difference is the amount of good and bad that they—we—do in this world. The money we make—well, it’s all good, if we use it to do good. Sure, it’s good to help one’s family, and to ensure that one’s kids and grandkids are well-fixed (I don’t have any; I was too busy to find a wife, though I’ve had plenty of—well, never mind). But, in the end, it’s all—what did Poppa, and then Rabbi Noviss, call it? Mitzvote. Poppa called them Mitzvahs. Good deeds. Things to make you, and God, and the world, happier, or better.


Yes: better. The world is in bad shape; it’s broken. Make it better. One more sip, and then, off to home? Well, raise your glass once more, Stranger: L’chaim—To Life!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

"Wind in the Willows," Revised and Updated (Fragment, a New Beginning)


It was a lovely May morning. Hearing a knock, Ratty put down his teacup and hastened to open his door. It was Mole, blinking in the spring sun. A brown leaf was sticking to his tweed jacket elbow, and the Rat was all too happy to pluck it off his myopic friend's professorial blazer.

"What cheer this bright and blossoming morning, Dear Friend Mole?" asked the Rat.

"It's Toad again," said Mole, gloomily. "He's gotten hold of a Tesla automobile, and kidnapped a lovely young Lady Tadpole, much against the wishes of her family. He has her locked up in Toad Hall, and is plying her with Cherry Brandy and Imported Opium. High Sheriff Badger is off to arrest him, and the Weasels are planning a Necktie Party. What shall we do, Ratty?"

"No time to waste!" cried Ratty, "To my cigarette boat!"

Hastily tossing some claret, dried sausage, and bananas into a wicker basket, the two friends hastened to the dock. While Mole threw off the ropes, Ratty fired up the Excalibur XX-294 Cadmium Engines.

They were off in a flash.

Two Rabbits stuck their noses out of their burrow.

"Some animals make a great deal of fuss over Nothing," said the Elder Bunny.

"Yass," said the Other.



Sunday, October 9, 2016

Haazinu, Revisited: A New Rendering.

Haazinu, Revisited

By Rabbi David Hartley Mark

                                                Hear me, O’ Cosmos, when I declaim,
                                                Let the Firmament absorb my words.
                                                May my thoughts descend like acid rain,
                                                Sizzling into the suffering earth,
                                                Soaked with generations of blood and strife
                                                Roiled with rivenings of man against man.
                                                The Name of my Lord will I shout to the skies:
                                                Glory to God in the Highest….

                                                I cannot fathom the ways of Adonai Elohim,
                                                Even granted my limited mortal mentality;
                                                Considering that He is perfect, I not,
                                                And that all His ways are inscrutable.

                                                Technology, Science, Advanced War-Machines—All
                                                Have attempted to raise us mortals to His status:
                                                Some succeeded, some failed;
                                                Some healed, some killed, and will go on killing.
                                               
God spoke, or was silent;
                                                We went on in our struggles.

                                                Do not say, “The past was better,”
                                                But say, “We were younger,
                                                More hopeful—“ for Hope
                                                Remains God’s greatest treasure.
                                                It is easy to complain,
                                                To be cynical,
To smirk at Dreamers and Idealists,
Or to be silent, the greatest Friend to Evil.
                                               
                                                Satan may or may not exist,
                                                But his helpers run rampant
                                                Around the globe,
                                                And the Yetzer Ha-Ra,
                                                The Evil Inclination,
                                                Flourishes on TV, computers, our cellphones,
                                                And in our minds.
                                               
"If it feels good,
                                                Do it" is not the best advice
                                                For establishing a Moral Civilization.

                                                From the time of our youth,
As we grow and mature,
                                                We face blessings and burdens.
                                                The manner we take on
                                                All of Life’s happenstances
                                                Stiffens our backbone
                                                And tests our courage.

                                                Will God suffer with you?
                                                Is your God all-perfect?
                                                Is it all your perception?
                                                Are you standing in judgment?
                                                Or do you judge Adonai?
                                                If I had the answers,
                                                O suffering children—
                                                I would not be a human,
                                                But godlike my own self!

                                                Our mission in Spirit
                                                Is coming together
                                                In godly congregations
                                                To help one another,
                                                To suffer our burdens,
                                                To quest personal answers,
                                                To seek faith unending—
                                               
We sinners and doubters,
                                                We cynics and skeptics,
                                                We children of heroes,
                                                Those who went before us—

                                                And God, somewhere in us—
                                               
O God of the Cosmos!
                                               

                                                

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Vayelech: I, Gershom ben Moses, the Forgotten Firstborn Son.

I, Gershom ben Moses

By David Hartley Mark

            Call me Gershom. Or not. You may have never heard of me, but I am the firstborn of the “First Prophet of Israel, Chief of the Prophets, both of those who preceded, and those who followed him, who spoke with the Lord God face-to-face,” as easily as I am speaking to you, now.

            And yet, you have never heard of me, Stranger. Well, why not? Poppa never had much of a home life—oh, but Momma loved him so much!—Zipporah was her name; it meant “Little Bird,” and she was, indeed, his little bird, always flitting and twittering around the mighty oak he represented, his being the strong terebinth of a monument to his One True God, in a world of idolatry, tyranny, slavery, and worse—

Oh, he could tell us stories, and did!

—When he was home, that is. Was. Rarely, I mean.

            And why? Well, you see—and I could, perhaps, forgive him now, now that he is dying—he was always, always, leading Israel—Israelites, I mean; he never made it into the Land of Israel; some testiness on the Almighty’s part about his having struck a rock, rather than speaking to it….Petty? I daresay. Small-minded? How dare you utter such blasphemy, such insults, against my God? Though I doubt whether He was, is, was ever, truly, MY God—He it was, Who stole away my father, my only role model, away from me, me and my only brother, Elazar, poor fellow….

            And Elazar—“God has helped”—Ha! What sort of name is that, for a little lost boy, a Lost Boy such as Elazar? He is gone; dead, probably, gone, without a trace. I, at least, go on. How do I survive? By my wits; I work as a camel driver here, for a day or so; in another place, as shepherd; move to a third, in time to help gather in a harvest of flax—I get by. I am always on the move. If I can snare a couple of coins, I am happy. If I can cajole Milady Housewife into giving me a crust of baked bread, or something more, I am ecstatic. That is my life: to wander.

The original Wandering Jew, though I have not sinned.

            Well, what could possibly be my sin? To be the Son of Moses? Here, listen to me: on the Awesome Day on which the Holy One granted the Torah to all of Israel, I was—where? Off at the “Claws of Horus” Sinai Chariot Regiment, hard at work polishing an Egyptian cavalry captain’s boot-sandals—yes; I do remember that.

I also remember spying a cloud of black smoke boiling off the top of a distant mountain—Sinai, it must have been, for the smoke-pillar moved to leeward, and I heard the sound of a shofar blowing, getting louder and louder. Later, I abruptly left the Egyptians’ employ, lighting out at midnight with the ruby that adorned his sword-haft tucked into my rucksack—it would serve me better than him; he was a rich man, and I a poor one, in need of bread and drink.

            Today, I have finally caught up with my People, but it is a sad day: my father is dying—there, near the Sanctuary-tent. I still have not introduced myself to, or spoken with him: he just goes on babbling his last-minute instructions to that Joshua fellow.

Joshua! That upstart—who died and made him the next leader? Still, I will content myself—I am a mere mortal, and hardly fit to counter the designs and plans of the Most High. There they are, together: Poppa lies on a litter on the ground; Joshua, his sword and shield resting against a nearby tree—an oak, again, of course, the plant of leadership—are whispering, back-and-forth, of the instructions which God has sent—to Joshua, this time. The Old Man is too aged and feeble to receive proper prophecy.

            I will content me with visiting my mother—

(Gershom stops a woman who is passing by, in the camp)

I beg your pardon, Madame: do you know my dear mother, Mistress Zipporah bat Jethro? She is the wife of your leader, our Moses.

            Why do I ask?

            Well, this might seem strange—but they are my parents, and Zipporah is my mother.

            Why does a tear come to your eye? I know she is very dear to all the women who know her—

            What is that you are saying? Dead? My mother dead?

            O my mother—dead? O Moses! How could you neglect her for all of these years, and callously bury her without ceremony or eulogy, without even sending messengers to attempt to seek out my brother Elazar, and me—have we not been shadowing this mighty people, for all these years?

My father! My father! You, who will soon ride heavenward in the chariots of Israel….

Where have you been for our mother, for Zipporah who loved only you, O Moses?

            He still speaks to Joshua; he does not hear me.


            The rest is silence….