Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Dodo Who Became King

The Dodo Who was King 

By David Hartley Mark 
(With Apologies to James Thurber) 

There was a Dodo who would sneak up behind other dodos and yank out their feathers in a painful fashion. When they protested, he would say, "Ah, who cares about you?" Or, "I'll sue!" He would weave the stolen feathers into exotic and lovely clothing, which he would sell to wealthy buyers who did not know anything of his underhanded and crooked ways. In this way he grew very rich, and thought himself admired by all the other animals of the forest, which was mainly untrue. 
As is often the case with wealthy animals, the Dodo felt that his money gave him the right to shoot off his beak about issues he didn't understand. He also loved to mock smaller and more helpless animals, which endeared him to some predators, but not many. 
Eventually, the Dodo decided to become King of the Animals although, in truth, he knew nothing about being king. He would spend hours preening himself in front of the mirror in his palatial nest, uttering admiring phrases to himself. He even hired a bevy of secretary birds to record his thoughts, though they were often at a loss to state what those thoughts were about, since they rarely made sense. 
When the time came for the Animals to choose a king, the Lion thought that, after all, he had ruled Animaldom for years and years, and that he would be a shoo-in. Unfortunately, the Dodo had become highly skilled at insulting his fellow candidates, and would take advantage of their perceived weaknesses: 
To the Kangaroo, he would say, "How's it going, Hoppy? How will anyone of the animals approach you with a request or even talk with you, if you're always scaring us with your jumping? Stand still!" 
To the Mole, he turned up his beak, and said, "I don't think Animaldom is ready for a King who spends all of his time Underground. Maybe he's a spy!" 
And to the Giraffe, he jibed, "How can you see to rule from 'way up there? What good is a King who can only see over the heads of the other animals?" 
In the end, despite a well-run and honest campaign by the Badger, whose service to Animaldom as Vice-King, High Counselor, Regent, and Master of the Privy Seal (which was a real Seal, capable of juggling red beach balls on its nose), was unsuccessful, and all of Animaldom was surprised to awaken the day after Choose-a-King Day, to find that the Dodo was their new King. Most decided to give him a chance; they had no choice, anyway. 
The problem was that the Dodo was entirely unprepared for leadership; all he knew how to do was fool other birds and steal their feathers. He also favored being center of attention at all times, and was given to making cheap jokes at the expense of other animals whom he disliked, or whom he believed had crossed him. Rather than read the speeches which his staff of secretary birds delivered to him, he would depart from the script frequently and strive for humor, forgetting that Animaldom was the active center for all animal activities worldwide, and that the World looked to it for guidance and leadership. 
As the weeks and months progressed, the Dodo kept making gaffes; at least, in the opinion of the Rabbits, who published The Animaldom Gazette. During press conferences, the Dodo usually did not answer their questions, referring them to a Macaque who spent most of her time either spitting at the rabbits, or flinging lumps of offal at them.  
"Such a shame that I must put my royal opinions to the Animal Council," complained the Dodo, "since I do such a remarkable job ruling by myself. What would it take for me to become Emperor, rather than King?" 
One day, the Dodo was out in the Royal Gardens, cogitating on this dilemma. He was bemused to see a Fox, who was catching Chipmunks and eating them in a crude and bloody fashion. 
"You're my kind of Animal," said the Dodo, patting the Fox on the back, "and I think that, together, we can make beautiful music." 
"Arrum," said the Fox, for his muzzle was full of shredded Chipmunk, "I've always wanted to enter Government." 
"Will you become my new Press Secretary?" Asked the Dodo, "since the Macaque is getting tired of doing the work, though I cannot say whyShe also demands more bananas." 
"I work better behind the scenes," said the Fox, "and I believe that my fellow foxes would be drawn to the Message you are trying to share." 
"What message is that?" Asked the Dodo, puzzled, for he was not a Deep Thinker. 
"Leave the message to me," smiled the Fox, blood dripping from its teeth and nose, "There are plenty of chipmunks out there to eat." 
After the Fox took over as Chief Theorist of what he dubbed the Dodoist Movement, riots and panic ensued among the Animals, with some backing the Dodo, some the Fox, and some the Badger, who had come out of forced retirement to pick up the Cudgels. In the midst of all this, a rabid Pug Dog overthrew the elected government of far-off Aerok, and began to manufacture and test missiles capable of reaching Animaldom. The Pug assured his followers, "This will make our little state the leading Power in Animalworld. Death to the Dodo and his underlings!" 
An air of Panic began to infest Animaldom, as the Pug urged his missileers on. Ignorant of how to lead, the Dodo blustered and fulminated, making statements like, "We will reduce all Pugs to ashes!" And firing most of his secretary birds, whom Chief Justice Owl later found to be guilty of stealing knicknacks and artwork from the Executive Nest, which they smuggled out, hidden in their beaks. 
Eventually the Dodo was left alone. All that remained was a small but effective anti-animal missile, which he had stolen from the Royal Arsenal, planning a Sneak Attack aganst the Pug. Unfortunately, the Pug got wind of it from the Dodo's Chief Secretary Bird, to whom the Pug had given a medal.  
In the ensuing Anti-Animal Missile exchange, both Aerok and Animaldom might have been reduced to ashes, but the Brave Badger risked his life, herding Animals into the fallout shelters left over from the Eisenhowanimal Administration, in West Virginianimal and Pennsylvanianimal. 
About five or six missiles were pre-programmed to strike the Executive Nest, where it was well-known that the Dodo spent most of his time. Following the brief but all-out Conflict, a squad of Animal Marines combed the smoking ashes of the Nest, but the Dodo was never found. 

Moral: Who aspires to lead beyond the powers of his brain 
Will cause the Animals nothing but pain. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Vayishlach: Rebecca, Rachel and Leah in the Afterlife

Vayishlach: Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, in the Afterlife

by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

Scene: The Afterlife, known as Sheol. Spirits flit about aimlessly: this is no Talmudic or Kabbalistic Heaven; that came later in Jewish History. We cannot see any of these spirits, but we can hear them.

Rebecca: I was the most dynamic of the Matriarchs. Early on, I saw that my older boy, Esau, was a poor leader and a worse priest: he could neither shepherd our tribe nor follow our God. Perhaps I should not have gone against my husband Isaac, but he was weak; his father had broken his spirit by almost sacrificing him. Only my Jacob, the smooth-skinned, the clever, would be able to carry on the legacy of Grandfather Abraham.

Leah: Did you not fear your husband’s wrath? Did you not have to placate him, ignoring your own health to continually provide him with sons, and a legacy?

Rebecca: My Isaac was undemanding. He was the son of his parents’ old age, and was never trained to be a leader. I had to take over, for the future of the Tribe.

Leah: I, too, though ignored and derided, provided my Jacob with a goodly inheritance: many fine sons, and a daughter, Dena, whom her father kept safely hidden, but not safely enough. Woe to Shechem and his people!

Rachel: These men do what they like. Jacob loved me, but never understood me. I could have been a prophet, too, like him, but he was blind. “Give me sons!” he would demand, until all I could do was repeat, like the Greek nymph Echo, “Give him sons!”

Leah: Sister, can you not understand that having babies was not enough? I presented many children to our lord and master Jacob, and provided him a fertile concubine, as well: Zilpah. But he was never satisfied. “Build up our tiny tribe!” he would say. I had to submit. It was painful, and quickly made me old.

Rachel: At least you lived to old age. I died young, bearing him Ben-Oni, “Son of My Affliction.”

Leah: Jacob renamed him Benjamin, “Son of My Right Hand.”

Rachel: To this day, women with infertility issues worship at my tomb, near Bethlehem. They are desperate, and have grown tired of worshiping a silent male God; that is why they turn to me, who went through the same feelings and disappointments as they.

Leah: Do not believe, Sister, that being able to bear sons endeared me to our husband. He scorned me, for all of my life. He was shallow and vain, seeing only the outside appearance—and I cannot help having been plain, not beautiful, like you. Jacob never understood how much I loved him, though we were married through Father Laban’s stratagem.

Rachel: Woe to both of us!

Bilhah and Zilpah, the Concubines of Jacob: How much more so were we devalued, regarded by Master Jacob only as baby-producers! Woe!

Rebecca: My daughters, understand this well: though they believe themselves to be the lords of their families, we women can rule from behind the throne, whispering in their ears. Men are rarely able to carry out their plans themselves; they require the aid and cooperation of their wives. Most are highly tentative and insecure. Remember your Jacob plotting and scheming when he believed Esau would destroy him and his possessions? Yet God chose him to become the People Israel. Control your men.They are weak and superficial. That is my lesson to you.

All: Will you teach us, Mother? O help us!

Rebecca: I cannot help you, Daughters; your time is past. But there must be hope for the Jewish Women of the future. Let them come and learn!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Old Branch Library is Closing

The Old Branch Library is Closing 

By David Hartley Mark 

The Old Branch Library is closing 
In Pompano Beach, Florida 
Near my temple 
I used to go there 
When I had a spare hour 
Before my weekday class. 

It was two blocks  
From the temple 
And I always gave  
A relaxed sigh 
When I walked through 
The ancient doors 
As if entering  
A museum 
Or a cathedral 

The librarians have packed up 
All the books, 
And are moving to 
A brand-new combination 
Community Center 
City Hall 
Recreation Location 
And library 

The new building is designed 
To resemble a shelf of books, 
Leaning against one another 
In a tumbledown fashion. 

It is a treat 
For the eye 
And will enhance  
The Neighborhood 

Still, back at the old, worn-down 
Previous Branch Library, 
I peered through the glass 
Of the front door,  
And was saddened 
To see row upon row 
Of empty shelves, 
Bare of the books 
They once displayed 
So proudly.  

I will surely visit 
The New Library, 
But this now-deserted one was  
Humbler and friendlier, 
Like the branch library 
I grew up in  
In my Old Neighborhood, 
Reading my way 
From one wall of the building 
To the other: 
The Red and Blue Fairy Books, 
Alice in Wonderland, 
And books of poetry-- 
Along with The Jewish Encyclopedia, 
Which I used 
To write my papers 
For my 8th Grade rabbi. 

Now, this library is gone. 

I believe that, 
When a library building closes, 
It should be deconsecrated 
Like a church