Bechukotai: Planet Erewhon

“If you follow My laws and faithfully observe My commandments… the earth shall yield its produce and the trees of the field their fruit. …If you do not obey Me… I will break your proud glory. I will make your skies like iron and your earth like copper. …Your land shall not yield its produce….”

–Lev. 26:3-4, 26:18-20

            A long time ago, there was a small, green planet in the Constellation Alpha Centauri. It was called Erewhon. At first, this planet existed in peace; the people thereof flourished and prospered. The trees grew enormous fruit, and the plowman overtook the reaper, so quickly did crops grow. The people enjoyed their prosperity; they sent produce and gifts to the inhabitants of other, nearby planets, sharing their bounty.

            And all was well on the Planet of Erewhon.

            But then, a few greedy men set out to extract as much produce as possible from the happy planet, and to dig beneath the surface of its rich, brown soil to extract both oil and coal, which no one on the planet needed or wanted, for they chose to travel on foot, which was healthy, or to hitch a horse to a wagon, which was leisurely and restful.

            These same greedy men built enormous factories, which pumped poison into the air and the ocean. Animals which subsisted on either the grass of the field or the microorganisms of the sea began to die.

            And a new class of leaders came to the planet—some of the people believed they were aliens from the Planet Gehenna, for they neither looked nor sounded like the kindly rulers to whom the people were accustomed. And these leaders promoted prejudice, racism, and jingoism, such as the people of Erewhon had never experienced. The rulers built massive war-machinery and sent it to other, poorer parts of the planet, whose natives could neither understand nor withstand the death which these machines brought.

            Up to that point, women who could not, for whatever reason, bear their child, had had the option of choosing what course of action they felt best. But the male tyrants decreed that, henceforth, they alone possessed the wisdom of birth, and would make it impossible for women to decide for themselves, for this pleased their harsh, unforgiving gods.

            In the midst of all this war, dangers to the environment, and removing the Rights of Woman, the people of Erewhon were left perplexed, frightened, and helpless. They huddled in their homes, and wondered what to do.

           And Erewhon, that hapless planet, spun on in space, alone.

Rabbi David Hartley Mark is from New York City’s Lower East Side. He attended Yeshiva University, the City University of NY Graduate Center for English Literature, and received semicha at the Academy for Jewish Religion. He currently teaches English at Everglades University in Boca Raton, FL, and has a Shabbat pulpit at Temple Sholom of Pompano Beach. His literary tastes run to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Stephen King, King David, Kohelet, Christopher Marlowe, and the Harlem Renaissance.

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