Friday, January 27, 2017

Moses vs. Pharaoh, with Other Voices. The Cacophony of Liberation.



Vaera

Synopsis: Moses and Aaron confront Pharaoh. The Theme is Clash of the Titans, in this case between Adon-i, God of the Israelites, vs. Pharaoh, god of the Egyptians. Here are some of the Actors, both Major and Minor:

Pharaoh’s Chief Sorcerer: Since we represent Egypt, the foremost Nation in the World, we constantly meet Challengers to our Power, and then, it becomes necessary for us to show our Sorcerer’s Mastery over the Forces both Above and Below. We were not overawed by these two back-country shepherds, Moses and Aaron, but it was necessary for us to show immediately that we could overpower them, lest Rumor reach our Slaves, who might be inspired to Revolt.

When Moses, the Israelite-Rabble Leader, cast down his Shepherd’s Crook and it became a Serpent, this was an easy Trick to copy—but we never counted on his Serpent’s swallowing up ours. That made us fearful.

“This is the Finger of that Desert God, Adon-i!” Sekhmet warned His Majesty. The Pharaoh will learn, soon enough: these Hebrews are a Force to be Reckoned with. We Magicians know; we can sense their strength….

Aaron, Brother of Moses: Everything changed, that day my Baby Brother Moses left the palace and saw an Egyptian Taskmaster beating one of our brethren. He tried to reason with the villain, but to no avail—and he ended up killing the man, in a fair fight. From that point on, he became a proud Hebrew, an Egyptian no more.

He fled, and we did not see him for—how many?—perhaps five years, during which he fled to Midian, that desert village-tribe, and made a life for himself there, marrying Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro, the Village High Priest. He might have lived there, forever, but came back, one day, with a Haunted Look on his face.

“What brings you back to these parts, Brother?” I greeted him.

“Our God sent me—and you are to be my Spokesman,” he growled at me, briefly, and I was surprised at how he had changed; he had always been quiet, and smiling, whenever anyone did him a kindness; it was part of his being able to quickly fade into the Background of whatever place he found himself, sort of an Israelite Chameleon, almost.

“Spokesman for what?” I queried, and he took my arm—gripped it tightly, and I wondered at how my soft, joking little brother had suddenly changed, as if overnight, into a thin, sunburnt, hawk-nosed, rawboned shepherd, rather than an Egyptian courtier, smiling at a young Egyptian Lady-in-Waiting of the Royal Pharaoh’s Court in which we both grew up.

Moses looked at me—stared me down, actually, until I found it hard to stand and take his gaze. Though he was my younger brother, he seemed older, somehow….

“We are prisoners here in Egypt, Royal Prisoners, but enslaved, all the same,” he whispered fiercely, “and I mean to set us free—you, me, Miriam, and our tribal, Israelite God, who is named Ehyeh-Ahshare-Ehyeh—‘He-Who-Is.’ He Who appeared to me in the Desert in the Heat of the Day, and gave me a Mission to carry out. Are you for me or for our Enemies, My Brother Aaron?”

“You know I am with you, Moses,” I stammered, frightened of his intensity.

“Good!” he smiled suddenly, and clapped me on the shoulder, “Then we shall not fail. Come: the game’s afoot.”

He stormed out, leaving behind him a wave of desert sweat and prophetic inspiration—but now, I admit, I have doubts—I have always been the comforter, the negotiator, the Peacemaker in the family, born as I was between two flamboyant, Burning Spirits—my elder Sister, Miriam, the Poet, a Prophet in her own right, a Leader of our Women, a Musician and Dancer—and a fine Public Orator, for I have heard her speak to our People in secret, of Freedom, of a Mysterious Mountain-God, El-Shaddai, whom she heard of in tales dating back to Nana Sarah, long-ago. And now, I have our Baby Brother, our Newly-Born Spark saved from the Fire, our Moses….

But what of me? Who speaks for Aaron?

I am a man who chooses to pray for Peace—

Can we not choose that Path?

Can we not negotiate with this Pharaoh, rather than setting this god-King against our invisible God? War will erupt, for certain; innocents will die, perhaps on both sides….

Could they not dwell in Egypt, we remain in Goshen?

I will give it thought, and perhaps speak to the others… perhaps Joshua, or Caleb, will incline their thoughts my way….

While Moses, my Firebrand Prophet Brother, stalked about Egypt like a man possessed, I went about my Holy Work, more quietly and carefully than he. He speaks of conquering the Egyptian Empire; I work to conquer the hearts of enslaved women and men.

           
Zipporah, Wife of Moses: And what of me, Wife to Moses? Am I not a Woman, a Leader in my own right? I am the the Proud Ethiopian Daughter of a Priest, First Family of the Desert Tribe of Midian, which was enemy to Israel, and is now their Friend….
           
Where are you now, my Moses, my Lover, my erstwhile Egyptian Fugitive-Prince? We embraced beneath a stubborn Sinai moon, and you promised me the World.
“I will build you a House in Midian, Zipporah my Sweet, my Desert Princess,” you breathed against my neck, “of stones, not mud-brick. And we will have many children there. I will be Priest in place of your worthy Father, there one day.”
           
I loved you—and you returned my love—until that day, when you came home, stinking of burnt thorns, with a peculiar flame in your eyes, and would not speak to me. You gulped water from our well, and curled up in a corner of the tent, refused to wash, ate nothing of my dinner, and would not speak to me.
           
Where did I lose you, in that wilderness, my Moses, my Love?
           
I, too, have feelings, Moses! You cannot cast me off, for this Mission of yours….
            Perhaps Miriam can help. We are in need of counseling; you will not speak to our boys; they cry for their Daddy.
           
There is more to life than Work. There is more to life than even your God.
           
There is your Zipporah, as well. What is left after your holy Work, for me?

Pharaoh, Moses’s Antagonist: How can an Invisible God exist? There are no such things; I know, for I am a god myself. I will battle this Israelite Desert Spirit with all the powers I possess, both magical and physical.

Where are my Sorcerers?
           
I am the Pharaoh, Son of Ra, the Sun-god. I head the Greatest Empire the Earth has ever known. I alone stand off the Barbarian Hordes who would invade our land. I have smitten the Hittites and the Syrians; I stood at the breach when the Moabites tried to invade, and they fell, full of my arrows…. My Cavalry makes the sea and skies tremble!

Let this Desert-God dare to touch Our Mother Nile; let him fill our houses and granaries with croaking Toads; let filthy Lice infest our People and Beasts alike, Disease penetrate the Skin of our very Bodies. I will stand on my Royal Balcony and brandish my sword against this God, as long as I have strength in my arms….

The Weather is taking a Turn; a Storm of Hail is coming. O God of the Hebrew Tribes! I call You to Wage Open Battle with me!

You Boy! Saddle my horse!

Blow, rain! Come, wrack! If I must die, ‘twill be with Harness on my Back….

Aaron, Brother of Moses: Everything changed, that day my Baby Brother Moses left the palace and saw an Egyptian Taskmaster beating one of our brethren. He tried to reason with the villain, but to no avail—and he ended up killing the man, in a fair fight. From that point on, he became a proud Hebrew, an Egyptian no more.

He fled, and we did not see him for—how many?—perhaps five years, during which he fled to Midian, that desert village-tribe, and made a life for himself there, marrying Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro, the Village High Priest. He might have lived there, forever, but came back, one day, with a Haunted Look on his face.

“What brings you back to these parts, Brother?” I greeted him.

“Our God sent me—and you are to be my Spokesman,” he growled at me, briefly, and I was surprised at how he had changed; he had always been quiet, and smiling, whenever anyone did him a kindness; it was part of his being able to quickly fade into the Background of whatever place he found himself, sort of an Israelite Chameleon, almost.

“Spokesman for what?” I queried, and he took my arm—gripped it tightly, and I wondered at how my soft, joking little brother had suddenly changed, as if overnight, into a thin, sunburnt, hawk-nosed, rawboned shepherd, rather than an Egyptian courtier, smiling at a young Egyptian Lady-in-Waiting of the Royal Pharaoh’s Court in which we both grew up.

Moses looked at me—stared me down, actually, until I found it hard to stand and take his gaze. Though he was my younger brother, he seemed older, somehow….

“We are prisoners here in Egypt, Royal Prisoners, but enslaved, all the same,” he whispered fiercely, “and I mean to set us free—you, me, Miriam, and our tribal, Israelite God, who is named Ehyeh-Ahshare-Ehyeh—‘He-Who-Is.’ He Who appeared to me in the Desert in the Heat of the Day, and gave me a Mission to carry out. Are you for me or for our Enemies, My Brother Aaron?”

“You know I am with you, Moses,” I stammered, frightened of his intensity.

“Good!” he smiled suddenly, and clapped me on the shoulder, “Then we shall not fail. Come: the game’s afoot.”

He stormed out, leaving behind him a wave of desert sweat and prophetic inspiration—but now, I admit, I have doubts—I have always been the comforter, the negotiator, the Peacemaker in the family, born as I was between two flamboyant, Burning Spirits—my elder Sister, Miriam, the Poet, a Prophet in her own right, a Leader of our Women, a Musician and Dancer—and a fine Public Orator, for I have heard her speak to our People in secret, of Freedom, of a Mysterious Mountain-God, El-Shaddai, whom she heard of in tales dating back to Nana Sarah, long-ago. And now, I have our Baby Brother, our Newly-Born Spark saved from the Fire, our Moses….

But what of me? Who speaks for Aaron?

I am a man who chooses to pray for Peace—

Can we not choose that Path?

Can we not negotiate with this Pharaoh, rather than setting this god-King against our invisible God? War will erupt, for certain; innocents will die, perhaps on both sides….

Could they not dwell in Egypt, we remain in Goshen?

I will give it thought, and perhaps speak to the others… perhaps Joshua, or Caleb, will incline their thoughts my way….

While Moses, my Firebrand Prophet Brother, stalked about Egypt like a man possessed, I went about my Holy Work, more quietly and carefully than he. He speaks of conquering the Egyptian Empire; I work to conquer the hearts of enslaved women and men.

           
Zipporah, Wife of Moses: And what of me, Wife to Moses? Am I not a Woman, a Leader in my own right? I am the the Proud Ethiopian Daughter of a Priest, First Family of the Desert Tribe of Midian, which was enemy to Israel, and is now their Friend….
           
Where are you now, my Moses, my Lover, my erstwhile Egyptian Fugitive-Prince? We embraced beneath a stubborn Sinai moon, and you promised me the World.
“I will build you a House in Midian, Zipporah my Sweet, my Desert Princess,” you breathed against my neck, “of stones, not mud-brick. And we will have many children there. I will be Priest in place of your worthy Father, there one day.”
           
I loved you—and you returned my love—until that day, when you came home, stinking of burnt thorns, with a peculiar flame in your eyes, and would not speak to me. You gulped water from our well, and curled up in a corner of the tent, refused to wash, ate nothing of my dinner, and would not speak to me.
           
Where did I lose you, in that wilderness, my Moses, my Love?
           
I, too, have feelings, Moses! You cannot cast me off, for this Mission of yours….
            Perhaps Miriam can help. We are in need of counseling; you will not speak to our boys; they cry for their Daddy.
           
There is more to life than Work. There is more to life than even your God.
           
There is your Zipporah, as well. What is left after your holy Work, for me?

Pharaoh, Moses’s Antagonist: How can an Invisible God exist? There are no such things; I know, for I am a god myself. I will battle this Israelite Desert Spirit with all the powers I possess, both magical and physical.

Where are my Sorcerers?
           
I am the Pharaoh, Son of Ra, the Sun-god. I head the Greatest Empire the Earth has ever known. I alone stand off the Barbarian Hordes who would invade our land. I have smitten the Hittites and the Syrians; I stood at the breach when the Moabites tried to invade, and they fell, full of my arrows…. My Cavalry makes the sea and skies tremble!

Let this Desert-God dare to touch Our Mother Nile; let him fill our houses and granaries with croaking Toads; let filthy Lice infest our People and Beasts alike, Disease penetrate the Skin of our very Bodies. I will stand on my Royal Balcony and brandish my sword against this God, as long as I have strength in my arms….

The Weather is taking a Turn; a Storm of Hail is coming. O God of the Hebrew Tribes! I call You to Wage Open Battle with me!

You Boy! Saddle my horse!


Blow, rain! Come, wrack! If I must die, ‘twill be with Harness on my Back….

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Shemote--Moses, The Reluctant Prophet, at the Burning Bush

I will say this last bit, before Shemote, the beginning of Exodus (and it was hard, very hard, to say goodby to Genesis, with its dysfunctional family, its clashing personalities, its rivalries, all going on in the Shadow of God), disappears, until next year.
First of all, Moses is my favorite. He is not perfect, and he is the baby of the family, with Aaron as middle child, and Miriam as the long-suffering oldest sister-- a prophet in her own right, a musician, a singer, a dancer, a composer of songs. Poor thing. I can't say too much about her, now, but she does save her baby brother's life. The Torah Portion/Parsha is very rich, and I only have a bit here, before I go back to grading papers. I will focus, instead. on Moses's first theophany, where he has done a very Jewish thing: he has gone into his father-in-law's business, the shepherding business, and is trying to forget his cushy life as an Egyptian prince, and settle down with his beautiful black Zipporah, their boys Gershom and Elazar, and get into Jethro's business. Jethro is a wonderful man, and a great father-in-law. (Moses may well have been Black, too.)
But God will not let Moses alone; he is the Chosen One, the Prophet-to-be. He will be Chief of the Prophets, who speaks to God the way that you speak to your friend. He will be on the highest level of prophecy. And he meets God at the Burning Bush, a common-enough bit of desert vegetation, to show either that God is in mourning for His people, or that God can be anywhere in the Universe-- this is common enough boilerplate commentary, and traditional.
But what is significant is that, when God says, "Go to Egypt and free My people," Moses resists-- how audacious! How Jonah-like! How can one be so chutzpahdik, nervy, to say "No!" to the Sovereign of Heaven and Earth? And Moses is very specific about listing his objections to the mission:
--I'm a refugee; I killed a man. If Pharaoh's secret police find me, they will jail and execute me for murder.
--I can't speak; I stutter and lisp.
--The people won't believe me; you must give me a sign to show them that I'm legit!
--Who ARE You, anyway? I don't know any God like You. I don't know any invisible God. All the Egyptian gods were statues, and very clear to sight and touch.
--What's Your Name? You've got to have a Name.
--All the gods I know are tribal--and You say that You are the God of Heaven and Earth? That can't be!
--etc.
And God, finally, loses His patience. He explains that He will be with Moses every step of the way-- He alone, not an angel, not a Seraph (a flaming archangel), and that Aaron will be spokesman for Moses-- this actually does not happen, but it's reassuring to our reluctant savior.
What all of this back-and-forth bargaining tells me is that we Israelites--and all the inheritors of our prophetic tradition-- are so lucky, to have a God Who allows for human interaction, not just blind faith. We must question; we must have a God Who, having created us with Free Will and Conscience, must always try the reins, push the boundaries, and ask, "What is it You ask of me, and what is Your part in this Covenant You ask me to fulfill?"
And we can be assured that God will never desert us, that, even in that Dark Night of the Soul, God is there-- that little spark of faith that we must sustain, even when we believe that we are alone. We are never alone. We are never lost.
God loves us-- far beyond the love of any mortal; far beyond the love of any human being.
Our God is love.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The New Order: A Poem for the Inauguration, with the Sound Turned Off

The New Order

By David Hartley Mark

I am sitting here watching President Trump’s Inaugural Speech
Only with the sound turned off
Which doesn’t really detract from it very much
As he scowls, waves his arms, and makes that odd
Circular sign with his thumb-and-forefinger
As I remember from the old-time beer commercials
Schlitz or Budweiser or
Something

I am sitting on my couch
Riley the Doberman-Boxer is at my feet
Looking worried
As he always does
While Kirby the Shih Tzu
Lies in his little bed
By the subwoofer
And rests his head on the edge
Also looking worried
Because that’s how his face goes

“You have good cause to worry, Boys,”
I tell them

Only Rowdy, the Tiny Yoodle
(That’s Yorkie-Poodle)
Isn’t worried;
He bounces
And jumps
From armchair
To sofa
To floor
Bringing me his Squeezy Ball
And rolling it
Into my thigh
To prod and torture me
Into throwing it,
Again
And Again
And AGAIN—

ENDLESSLY

“Because this is a game
We all can enjoy,
Dave,” he says

“What about
Trump?” I ask him.

“Trump who?” he says,
“Throw the ball!”

The door opens
And in come
Columbus,
Phillis Wheatley,
And Tecumseh—
I invite them to sit
Next to me
On the couch.

Trump continues fulminating;
I can see spittle flying from his mouth
In the brisk January DC air

“This is not my fault,”
Says the Admiral of the Ocean Sea.

“You’re a liar!”
I tell him.
“You’re right,”
He answers, sheepishly,
“I never should have come;
I should have stayed in Spain,
Or, perhaps, in Portugal.
Had I remained in Genoa,
I might have stayed a weaver….”

Phillis shivers beneath the air conditioning,
And I go to fetch her a sweater.

“Will General Sir Washington be speaking, Mr. David?”
She asks, giving me a shy smile,
“And will my beloved Scipio Moorhead
Be painting this illustrious scene?”

I hug her: her shoulders are so thin,
I wonder at her massive mind,
So capable of producing prodigious poetry,
As she closes her eyes, as if in a spell,
And chants:

“Adored for ever be the God unseen,
“Which round the sun revolves this vast machine,
“Though to His eye its mass a point appears:
“Adored the God that whirls surrounding spheres….”

Finally, Tecumseh spoke, great Chieftain of the Shawnee,
While frowning and gazing at the image of Trump on the screen:

“I see none of my People there present: who is this man?
Does he fear to see our people in his Council?
Hear me! Brothers: we all belong to one family:
We are all children of the Great Spirit; we walk in the same path….My people wish for peace; the red men all wish for peace:
But where this White Man is, there is no peace for them….”

I could see that President Trump was done, and was departing the
Podium, surrounded by Security;
From afar, I could see the smoke of protesters,
And I watched as he climbed into a black armored limousine.

There was nothing left for me; my visitors, seeing nothing for them, had vanished.
God save these United States of America, I thought.

I was done.
All was done.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Shemote: A Hero Takes Stumbling Steps Toward Freedom--Moses Begins

Shemote

By Rabbi David Hartley Mark

I can’t believe it gets so hot, out here in the desert. I remember how cool it was, and how the breezes blew, when I was living in Pharaoh-My-Father’s palace—the long drapes of Nile Cotton which swayed gently in the wind—and, even on hot, sultry days, when the hamseen-winds blew in from the desert, and the sand blew in through the open windows, there were plenty of servants to wave peacock-feather fans in every corner, and keep a steady breeze blowing. Meanwhile, we would lie on our chaise longues, while other servants would bring us tall glasses of sherbet made from ice brought hundreds of miles from the distant mountains of Africa, and our every drink of water was frosted from that same ice….

         How I wish I had a sip, just a cool sip, of ice, now!

         But I lost it all—for one, foolish act. Yes: I had to go and play the hero. I saved a man’s life, and I didn’t even know his name. And I killed another man—not that he didn’t deserve to die! God-of-my-fathers, strike me dead, if I had let that scoundrel, that thick-necked, yellow-head-dressed, loudmouthed oaf of a taskmaster beat my brother Israelite for one-more-minute!

         Let me tell You the whole story, God of my fathers—though I am certain that You know it all, for You have read my mind about this, and You see all that happens on this earth, from Your abode in the skies, and You laugh at us: You hold us in derision, as my father, Amram, used to tell me, before the Pharaoh’s police came, to arrest him for working for our freedom, and he had to run away, and was never seen again….

         I am Moses—my name means—what? Our wise men say it means, “drawn out of the water,” for my sister Miriam, May You bless her, saved my life, when I was but a babe, and my mother Yocheved put me in a wicker basket, and sailed me down the Nile River, for the Pharaoh Ramesses II, afraid of the growing population of our people, had decreed that all babies were to be slain by being drowned in the Nile….

         And so, I was raised by both the Princess of Egypt, who was childless and adopted me, and by my birthmother, Yocheved, whom Miriam fetched at the Princess’s command, to be my wetnurse. What a perfect match! (Though they quarreled, doubtless, about whether I was to be Egyptian or Hebrew, which made me forever suspicious of women, and their power over me.)

         But I grew up in the Palace, a happy little princeling of Egypt, and was even dandled in the Pharaoh’s lap a time or two by my hardly-doting Royal Grandfather Ramesses, along with my dozens of equally-royal half-brothers and sisters….

         Until that fateful day when I emerged from the Palace, blinking in the Heliopolis sunlight like some Royal Mole, to see what my Outside World looked like—and it was a shock.

         I saw an entire people—MY people, as Mama Yocheved whispered to me that evening—enslaved as human animals might be, used to build monuments for the Greater Glory of Egypt, and exploited by a tall, uncaring, unfeeling, bull-necked, long-nosed tyrant—who was my father.

         That second day, I went out, but not the na├»ve fool I had been the day before. I was dressed like the Egyptian nobleman my Princess adoptive mother intended me to be, but, in my heart and brain, I was pure Hebrew. And I was angry; my hands and muscles trembled, that’s how angry I was. I was like a tiger or lion that my Pharaoh-father, the evilest wretch on the top of the power-pyramid, had once led us to hunt, cornering that noble beast as he now had my majestic people cornered. And I was determined to free them all myself—foolish young man that I was.

         It didn’t take long before I rounded the corner of a half-built pyramid, would-be monument to the megalomanic building-disease of Ramesses, that I saw the two: an Egyptian taskmaster, all brawny muscle piled on a frame of ridiculously tiny bandy legs, with a miniscule marble-sized head on top, adorned with a bright-yellow headdress, all agleam in the sun. He was shouting—screaming, really, at the top of his lungs—at a small, huddled form on the ground, vainly trying to protect his head, his vitals, his—everything.

         “Get up,” whispered the Taskmaster, shifting his cat-o’-nine-tails to his other hand, “you scrawny little Hebey-boy, and pick up that pallet o’ mud-bricks, or, I swear by the rays of Ra, I’ll make you eat them, muddy brick by muddy brick. Get UP!”

         And the dreadful whip, already full of bits of the Hebrew’s flesh, swished through the air, and I could hear the Hebrew slave’s weak “Ow!” as it connected with his shoulder. Then, there was nothing but incoherent sobbing. And the Taskmaster began to laugh. He raised the whip again—

         “What the—?” the over-muscled ape cried out, for I had caught his whip-hand in my own, and was bending it backward. “Ow! Let go, you—“

         I did not—I kept bending it, thanking silently Djerby, the Royal Wrestling-Master, who had taught me how to flank-attack an enemy. I continued to bend; the Taskmaster was forced to bend, as well. And soon, I was happy to hear a satisfying snap! as the brute’s forearm broke in half.

         “That will send you to the House of Aescalepius, certainly,” I said, letting go of his arm. He said nothing, but only dropped to his knees, muttering imprecations, but mostly whimpering.

         That was my blow for the freedom of my people—but what was the result? Nothing; less than nothing. I had thought it would lead to a mass movement by my people, to resist Pharaoh and take up arms—picks and shovels, or, at least, refuse any further forced labor, but I was wrong. The Israelites’ spirit was broken by years of bitterness and disappointment; all they had left were a few cloudy memories of brighter times in the days of their forefathers and the Joseph Viziership. That era was not to return, though I had had some foggy notion of bringing it back. What did I know? I was a child in experience, though a man in size.

         Instead, Datan and Aviram, those traitorous backstabbers, turned me in, and the Egyptian Secret Police came after me, almost the next day. I was forced to flee for my life.

         Luckily, I survived a death-dealing trek through the desert—again, my sister Miriam risked her life to get me some maps from the Egyptian Topographical Office—and Brother Aaron escorted me through the Israelite Work Camps.

         It was so bittersweet to bid them both goodby—

         “Who knows when we shall meet again?” I asked them, as Aaron and I hugged, and I kissed my brilliant, beautiful older sister’s hand. Though nearly twenty-five, she was not yet married, and only laughed when Aaron and I teased her about it:

         “Who would marry an old maid like me?” she laughed, “Besides, I believe that He-Who-Is is planning a job or two for a woman prophet, and I don’t want to be burdened down with babies, when He calls me.”

         “Let me stay, and help with the rebellion!” I pleaded with them, “I should be the leader. That fat-necked Ramesses—who knows him the way that I do?”

         Aaron shook his head: though barely into his twenties, his beard already had some gray in it, and he used to enjoy going off by himself, and meditating. When I asked him about it, he said, “I’m just thinking about God, and wondering if there is something I might be doing for Him, in the future.”

         “No, Brother Moses, you run away, now,” said Miriam, and Aaron nodded. “You will do us no good rotting away in Pharaoh’s prisons—that’s what happened to Great-Great-Grandfather Joseph, and God may not cause a miracle, this time. Go off into the desert, as did Father Abraham; God will find you, there.”

         And so, I came to Midian, but no miracle has taken place. I am son-in-law to Jethro, High Priest of Midian. He’s a kindly old duffer, and my bride Zipporah is a beauty and smart, too, but no miracle has taken place. Instead, I spend my days chasing goats and sheep from oasis to oasis….

         But what’s that smell? Oh, nothing but a bush on fire; happens all the time…. Still, that little lamb is getting too close! I best go rescue it; can’t afford to bring it back to Poppa Jethro as roasted lamb chops….

         The bush is certainly burning hard and fast, though….