Sunday, January 28, 2018

Yitro: Zipporah Laments the Absence of Moses

Yitro: The Passion of Zipporah

Zipporah bat Yitro v’Athaliah speaks from the depths of her black-walled tent in the desert outside of her hometown of Midian:
And are you gone away from me, my Moses, my Egyptian Prince, my stuttering lordling, father of my sons, Gershom (lit., “Stranger”) and Eliezer (lit., “God is my help”)? Rightly did I name them, for you are a stranger to me, and your mysterious Desert God has become my snare, not my help.
            I see you, Moses, my mind’s eye: I behold you, ascending the Mountain all draped in fire. I hear the thunderings of your Jehovah, not unlike those of Baal—and you are my baal, my husband, and my reluctant master. We are apart, in body, heart, and soul, and, truly, Moses, I do not know why. Was I not a good and proper wife to you? Did I not kindle the Sabbath lights as you bade me—those two tiny flares in the night, every Friday? And I cooked whatever you asked me to….
            I am grief-stricken, a widow—no, divorcee!—in all but name. My sisters are all married to hard-working, iron-limbed Midianite shepherds, who can guard a flock and sling a stone at any ravaging lion or desperate wolf—and I, the eldest of them all, have no husband. You have a new bride: the Shekhinah, your singular God’s feminine Presence, while His lightning-bolt-thrusting, thunderous-voiced Self volleys down upon us from the heavens—
            And what of your two sons, teenagers now? Do you not owe them an explanation? Gershom is the talkative one: daily, hourly, he badgers me: “Where is Abba? When will he return to us? I well understand his devotion to his God—I, too, am devoted to you, Eema, and to Abba—though he is far away. But I must know!”
            And my younger son, my baby, my Eliezer, is silent—he sits in a dark corner of our tent, his arms folded, and will not eat or drink. And when I ask him,
            “How are you today, Eliezer, dear? Perhaps Abba will come home today; don’t you want to bathe and put on clean clothing?”
He only glares at me and says,
            “I never wish to see that man again. And frankly, Eema, I wish you had named me something else.”
            “But that name is honorable to both you and to our God, my son,” I reply, “Why would you ever wish to change it?”
            He falls silent—but, as I walk back to my kneading-board, I hear him whisper, “He is not my God. And Moses is not my father. Why would my father leave me?”
            Then, of course, there is my loving father, High Priest Jethro. He loves to drop by our tent of a sudden, bellowing, “Where is my Princess Zipporah? And where are my two young princes, Gershom and Eliezer?”
            Father will not brook any ill-talk of my absentee husband; no. He thinks only of the great fame that proclaiming the One True God—as he calls Him—will bring to his son-in-law, and to our family. As for himself, he boasts, falsely, “I am content to bask in the reflected glory of my son-in-law, Moses, he who is prophet, priest, and spokesman for Jehovah!”
            My sister Tamar told me, secretly, that Father has “converted”—her word, not mine—to the Hebrew God-Worship, as well, going so far as to—well, you can guess. And Father has been—again, secretly—making offerings to this God, out there in the desert, where the rocks and lizards can surely keep a secret. He dares not inform his own congregation, our Midianite neighbors, for fear that they will stone him as a heretic.
            “You must be patient with your husband and lord, My Dear,” Father whispers to me when the boys are about, “for Moses is surely ascending that holy hillock to be with our—I mean, his—God, and having become His anointed one, there will be no end to his power! Be a good little wifey, won’t you, Dear, and do nothing to interfere with his soon-to-be-burgeoning fame….”
His eyes sparkle from liquor; he wheezes the stench of barley beer into my face—really, I can barely stand it—and his clothes reek of the burnt lambs and goats that he slaughters and thrusts onto his desert-stone-altar, making offering after offering to the God he has chosen. Thankfully, he soon departs—to the tavern in the middle of town—a poor choice of destination for an aged High Priest, who should surely know better!
I wish my mother Athaliah were still alive, but she died young, after birthing too many daughters and no sons, all for the vanity of her ambitious priestly husband, who shouted in her face, “Give me sons! I must have a dynasty, d’ye hear?” I cannot imagine how Father fools our Midianites, we who for so many rains worshiped the Earth-Goddesses, they who brought us the harvest if they chose to answer our prayers. I do miss those days.
Hark, a messenger!
            A young man, all covered with desert dust, his feet all mottled with callous, bloody scratches from wilderness thorns all over his legs, stands at the door of my tent, panting. I offer him water or wine, whichever he prefers, but he raises a hand to stop me, and declares in a dust-choked whisper:
            “I will not drink nor sup until I have said my piece, My Lady. I bring you the compliments and felicitations of your holy husband, Milord Rabbi Moses, our leader without peer. He bids you and your family pack up for a visit—
(A visit? I think, Is a mere visit sufficient for the wife of his bosom? What became of our marriage vows to one another, to remain faithful at whatever cost? Why does Moses not wish for us to stay with him?)
“--and join our Israelite encampment. Oh, but Moses will not be there when you arrive; he is scheduled to climb the Holy Mount Sinai, there to commune with the Most Sacred God. My Lady, my mission is done: I have spoken my piece, and will drink.”
He seizes the wineskin from my hand, and suckles at it, greedily….

--O Ashtoret, or Jehovah, God of my husband Moses—I am Zipporah, I protest his leaving me—us—like some clay shards by the road. I cannot read the mind, or tell the plans of Moses, but I suspect and fear that they will not involve his family. Woe!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Beshallach: The Egyptian Version

Parshat Beshallach: The Egyptian Version

Top Secret: Eyes Only, Joint Egyptian Chiefs of Staff
Egyptian Weekly Army Report, Northern Sector
Glorious Egyptian Empire Peacetime: Battles to Report—0
Minimal Military Losses, Thank Ra-in-His-Glory

 8th Year of Reign of His Majesty, Sun-in-His-Splendor-Rising,
Pharaoh Ramesses II

Item: Supply-Sergeant Khufu requisitioned six bows-and-quivers for use by Platoon 6, Chariot Squadron C, Regiment “Horus-Hawk-of-Vengeance”; three of six quivers were found to be of substandard workmanship, and returned to the Nubian Arms Supply Factory for repair or replacement.

Item: Corporal Menkaure found to be drunk on barley-beer during 3rd Night Watch, sentenced to receive ten lashes and lose three-days’ pay, it being Middle-Level-Troop-Alert due to incursions by Bedouin into Northern Boundary Area; sentence reduced by Provost Marshal Judge to five lashes, one day’s loss of pay, Plea of Mercy, in light of Corporal’s recently losing his mother to Nile Fever; sentence under review.

Item: Our Troop Movements Yesterday:

Chariot Squadrons F & H, Regiment “Osiris-Escort-of-Underworld,”
Lieutenants Userkaf & Huni Commanding

Capt. Kawab, Commander-on-Scene, Reporting—

1 o’clock am—Sentries Privates Sahure and Waset, stationed on Signal-Tower #4, Eastern Boundary, Great Pyramid District, spot a Dust-Cloud in area of Goshen-Slave-Quarters. Fearful of spreading Plague, there being Reports of such in that area, Sentries wave Red Flags and light Watch-Fires to alert other Signal-Towers in Area.

Private Sahure: “They were Slave Rabble—those Hapiru folk; I do not speak their gibberish, my family being High Egyptian for generations—but I did make out Dancing and Singing amid their march.”
Private Waset: “I smelled some sort of bread baking; it smelled burnt, and they were carrying large boxes of gold and silver, which gleamed in the morning sun.”

Sentries estimated Size of Mob to be 6,000 (approx.) Men, Women, & Children.

2:30 am—Upon spotting the Signal-Fires of Tower #4, Adjutant Unas of Cavalry Troop 8 saddles a swift horse and reports to Regimental Headquarters (RHQ) Regiment “Horus-Hawk-of-Vengeance,” for Instructions, Lieutenant Colonel (LTCOL) Shepses Commanding.

2:35am—LTCOL Shepses, having received no instructions via Swift Rider from the Joint Egyptian Chiefs of Staff (JTEC) at Ramesses Palace in Memphis, sends messengers (Runners: Lance-Corp. Khafre, Private Smendes) to Chariot Squadrons F & H, ordering them to “shadow the Hapiru,” and report back to him regarding “any suspicious movements.”

4am—Chariot Squadron F Commander, Subaltern Neithi reports back,

“Hapiru are moving towards Nile Delta, following a Flamelike Entity, which they are carrying in what appears to be a brazier. They hail and call to it, as to a Deity of some sort.
“Visual Observation is unclear, there being a Heavy Morning Fog.”

4:10am—LTCOL Shepses orders the Reconnaissance to continue, commanding Three Chariot Squadrons to close the distance between themselves and the Hapiru, intending Reconnaissance-in-Force, each Chariot mounting one Archer, one Driver.

5am—Hapiru halt on bank of Nile; their alleged leader, one ‘Mses, is speaking to them.
Capt. Kawab: “He appeared highly agitated, and seemed to be arguing with the slave-rabble. I was too far off to make out what they were saying. A fog was rolling in, coming between my forces and the Hapiru, and our vision was obscured.”

Squadrons draw closer.
Capt. Kawab orders Standard Cautious Battle Approach Drill to Begin: archers fit arrows to bows.
Horses pulled back to jog-trot from gallop.

 (See Cavalry Instructions Scroll XXXIV, 5th Ed., “Battle Approach, Cautious, Suspicious of Ambush,” Published by Egyptian War College, Reign of Pharaoh Horemheb, for the exact maneuvers followed.)

5:30am—Sky darkens; rain falls; strong East Wind blowing.
Delta-water appears to be sinking into the earth, not unusual in Marshy Ground.
Our Chariot-Squadrons maintain good “battle alert” order.

Lieutenant Userkaf orders Sgt-Major Huni to halt the Squadrons, on Capt. Kawab’s order; single horse-and-rider (Private Tahpanes) is ordered out to approach ‘Mses, in attempt to parley and force Hapiru slaves to return, or they will be destroyed by an overwhelming chariot force.

Heavy East Wind forces Rider to return. No parley takes place.

‘Mses, Israelite slave leader, is seen pointing a shepherd’s crook out over the waters.

6am—Water continues flowing down, as in swamplike action, only much accelerated; Lt. Huni, who studied hydroponics in Pharaoh Tutankhamun Memorial Agricultural Academy prior to Army Conscription, theorizes that it might be due to Underwater Seismic Action; his Adjutant, one Private Weni, testifies that he sees a River-Demon possibly floating in the air over the area.

No Conclusion is reached by this Military Court of Justice.

6:15am—Hapiru cross over, dry-shod, through middle track of Nile, exposed through Unknown Means (See 6am Entry, above).

6:20am—Officers confer; Capt. Kawab calls for a Volunteer Chariot Platoon to Reconnoiter the Hapiru Path of Crossing, and possibly follow.

Three Charioteer-Teams of Platoon 7 Volunteer, Sergeant-Major (SGTMAJ) Renef Commanding, drive down the slope and into the marsh, but find their chariot-wheels caught in the quickly-rising-mud. Before Lt. Userkaf, their Commander, can organize a Rescue Squad with Ropes and a Work Party, both horses and troops are overcome by Quicksand, and lost.

Recommendation submitted for Army Scarab Medal of Merit (Bronze) to be awarded to SGTMAJ Renef, and a lifetime non-commissioned officer’s pension to his widow and two children, along with posthumous promotion to 2nd Lieutenant; this recommendation is currently under review by the Royal Military Pensions Board, which will report back to Lt. Userkaf in two weeks.

It is observed that, while this Tragic Accident is occurring, the Hapiru on the Opposite Shore are dancing and singing, while playing timbrels and drums.

Our brave Egyptian Cavalry Troopers are angry over the loss of their comrades and wish to attack the Hapiru, but the waters have returned to their previous depth, and their chariots are unable to cross.

6:30am—Capt. Kawab orders a peaceful withdrawal through the rain and wind, and files this Report on behalf of LTCOL Shepses.

Later Report Addendum: Corporal Osorkon, for sneaking into Barracks late after a Romantic Liaison, is to be jailed for one month, and reduced in rank to private.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

My Dinner with Trump

My Dinner with Trump 

By David Hartley Mark 


Now's the chance for you and a friend to win a private dinner to celebrate President Trump's first year in office.  
The president's 2020 campaign is holding a sweepstakes, and the prize is a private dinner with Trump in Palm Beach to mark the one-year anniversary of Trump's inauguration.... 
Whie Trump's campaign sent out emails asking for invitations—even a dollar—related to the sweepstakes, the fine print indicates no purchase is ready to enter. 

--From the S. Florida Sun-Sentinel, 1/16/18 

I habitually recycle my junk mail, but was surprised the other day to find an envelope bearing the president's unmistakable grin and visor of carrot-colored hair, along with the logo in large neon-colored type, "YOU ARE THE WINNER! BE PREPARED FOR DINNER WITH YOUR PRESIDENT!" The letter gave a special number to call "for Secret Service Security Clearance," and also the exact address of Mar-a-Lago. It also assured me not to worry; Marine Three would land in my neighborhoodI wondered where, but, luckily, my neighbor has a corner lot and votes Republican, going back to Dewey. 

I dialed the number, and a deep voice with a Midwestern accent greeted me. The Secret Service agent seemed to know a great deal about me, including my straight-Democrat voting record, my various residences over the years, my preference in wines ("We prefer that the president dine only with someone who favors American wines—only, not California"), and the petition I signed back in high school asking then-President Johnson to get the hell out of Vietnam ("That will not be a problem, though I myself question your loyalty to the Country."). 

On the chosen day, Marine Three (which normally carries Don Jr. And Eric) landed in George's lot, to the accompaniment of several neighbor children, who waved small flags and cheered. Their parents stayed conspicuously indoors. I mounted its steel steps, after being saluted by a sergeant and a Lance Corporal. My wife was out of town, so I brought Kirby, my Shih Tzu, as my dinner partner. I thoughtfully tied a red-white-and-blue scarf around his neck, along with an old VOTE HILLARY—THERE'S NO ONE ELSE Button. I felt it would be safer if he, as a four-pawed American, expressed our mutual political views. 

The trip to Mar-a-Lago was quick—there are advantages to living in Florida. As we landed, raising a great deal of dust from one of the golf course's sand traps, I noticed the large number of protesters against the president, kept safely behind police barricades across the highway, and guarded by a cordon of bored-looking State Troopers. I recalled a Washington Post article (3/17/17) which declared that each and every Trump-trip to the Southern White House costs taxpayers $3 million and that, if he stayed in the (relatively shabby) Executive Mansion just a couple of weekends, he could restore all the social services programs he was hoping to eliminate. 

That sum was far from my head as Kirby and I walked into the lobby of Trump's Southern Shangri-La. The fittings were, even to a d├ęcor-blind Philistine like me, exquisite; entire surfaces appeared to be gold-plated. Kirby thoughtfully lifted his leg and peed on what appeared to be a Ming Dynasty umbrella stand, coated with enough gold to make Midas envious. 

I had no time to linger in the lobby, however; Stephen Miller, who would happily immolate himself for the president, came rushing forward. 

"Rabbi Mark," he gasped, "welcome to Mar-a-lago!" 

"Thank you, Stephen," I answered, "will you be dining with us? I'm sure yu have a great deal to say about changing American Democracy to good, old-fashioned Fascism." 

Miller smiled; I doubt whether he heard me. 

"That's the same idea I heard on CNN the other night," he lied, a facile grin on his skull-like face, "That's the thing with Fake News. They can't even come up with a good plan for Fascism themselves; they have to steal mine." 

I could see that, in Stephen Bannon's absence, Miller was striving mightily to be a Deep Stater and a Fascist, all at once. I yearned to be out of his company. 

"Where will the president and I be breaking bread?" I asked, "Is there a private dining room he customarily occupies?" 

"No, the president is a Man of the People," said Miller, "so he prefers to take his dinner right in the main dining room, where he can greet his worshipers—I mean, fans and supporters." 

I began to wonder about the security situation: should the Leader of the Free World, even one so free-wheeling and reckless as Trump, be discussing state secrets in the midst of ordinary citizens, albeit extremely wealthy ones? Nonetheless, I allowed myself to be led into the Main Dining Room, where American flags, red-white-and-blue balloons, and even pinatas in the shapes of Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper dangled from the ceiling. 

"Later on this evening," said Miller, "I hope that you've got a good swinging arm. We'll be crushing those two pinatas!" 

"What are they stuffed with?" I asked my over-eager host, "Candy?" 

"That would have been a good idea," said Miller, "but we went with pro-Trump ballots, already printed out in English and Russian, and all ready for the 2020 voting." 

I shook my head, and then spotted a familiar, rotund, black-suited figure. 

"It's the president!" Breathed Miller, and nearly knelt on the floor before him. Kirby and I looked at each other. I warned him not to pee anywhere in the vicinity. 

The president saw me, and looked puzzled. 

"Are you Little Rocket Man?" He asked. 

"No, Mr. President," Miller hurried to say, "this is the man who won your sweepstakes." 

"Sweepstakes?" Asked the president. He looked distant, and disconnected, somehow. An aide bent down and immediately gave him a glass of Diet Coke. The Chief Executive of the United States drank off the entire glass with a gulp, muttering, "This Coke must be number seventeen of the day." The soda had some odd effect on the president's affect, however, because he looked at me and brightened. "You look Jewish," he said, "Are you one of my lawyers?" 

"No, no, Mr. President," said Miller, "this is Rabbi David Mark. He's come a long way to have dinner with you." 

"Dinner?" Asked the president, and then repeated, with a wide smile, "Yeah—dinner!" 

"What will you be having, Mr. President?" Asked the waiter who stood on the president's right. 

"Oh, the usual," said Trump, "Two Big Macs, two Filet o' Fish, two large fries, a Coke (a big one, of course), and a vanilla shake." 

"And you, Sir?" Smiled the waiter, "the same?" 

"God, no," I answered, "Just bring me a salad with hard-boiled egg, with some wheat toast, no butter." 

"Excellent!" Said the waiter, and he and the small army of servants scurried off. Miller remained, hovering. 

"Well, that Border Wall seems to be a conundrum," I said, striving mightily to make conversation with the president, whose attention was drawn by a young woman in a low-cut dress. 

"I could get into some of that," said the president, leering and grinning like a hungry shark." 

"The Wall?" I asked. 

"What wall?" He said. 

"The Mexican Wall," I said, anxious to get the president's eyes off his prey. 

"Right!" He said, "The Mexicans will pay for that wall, you bet. It will be amazing. You know that I know how to build, Little Rocket Man." 

I let that one go. "And the government? How are we going to keep the government running, Mr. President?" 

"By deporting the DACA people. Oh, yes, and the Muslims." He said, without hardly a blink. He gulped down more Diet Coke. 

"Sorry? I don't see the connection," I said. 

"I do," he said, "and that's all that matters. I graduated from many, many fine schools, and I have a great, great brain. The Wall will be amazing! We'll get rid of all those people who are stealing American jobs. We'll dig for coal, good American coal. Oh, and I will restore the infrastructure...." 

More Diet Coke. I could hear Kirby snuffling around under the table, and remembered that he had only gone once since we had disembarked from Marine Three. I believed, from the noises he was making, that he was sniffing pretty close to the $17,000 trousers of the Leader of the Free World. However, I said nothing, nor did I pull at his leash. 

"Just don't be shooting any nukes at us, Little Rocket Man," said the president, belching woozily at me through a cloud of Diet Coke gases. 

I heard the sound of kitchen doors flapping back-and-forth, and, from a distance, could see a line of waiters bringing the president's dinner. I was glad. 

It was going to be a long evening.