Sh’lach – The Testimony of Caleb ben Yefunneh by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

Welcome to the hospitality of my tent, Stranger! I am Brother Caleb, son of Yefunneh, by your leave! It is now twice-ten years since Rabbi Moses ben Amram sent us, twelve spies altogether, over Jordan River (River? Pah! It was but a rivulet, a trickle even, in spots, except during rainy season), and into the Promised Land.

Behaalotecha by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

Synopsis of Parsha: The Children of Israel grow tired of the manna, the heavenly bread which God sends daily, and implore Moses and God to send them meat. Once again, they invoke the memory of the fruits and vegetables which they ate a-plenty in Egypt—strange, because this is the Wilderness Generation, the Exodus Generation having died out, for the most part, following the Sin of the Golden Calf. Nevertheless, tribal memories persist, and stories exaggerate the truth. The people work themselves into an emotional state of grief and weeping, so great is their lust for meat.

Naso By Rabbi David Hartley Mark

I, Scribe Kotev ben Chibur, do set down these proceedings of our Holy Family Court, exactly as I witnessed it on the Day of the Ordeal of Suspected Wife-Adultery. [I have not, I admit, been to many of these. Nor did I know the wife well; how could I, a priest devoted to service of G-d, spend time among strange women? I did, however, know the husband—an idle, drinking sot. He claimed to be a cobbler, but I admit that neither I nor any of my Levite friends ever saw him holding a sandal in his hand, unless it was his own.]

Bamidbar by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

Scene: Open Wilderness—nothing but sand, rocks, and thornbushes, a harsh, burning desert expanse. Vultures circle overhead. We behold a long, undulating line of people—men, women, children—old, young, middle-aged—gathered around a tall rock, from which a bony, aged, bearded elder, obviously the leader, barks orders. He is Moshe ben Amram, Leader and Rabbi of Israel. Because of his age, and the possible strain on his voice, his words are repeated on all four sides by Tribal Chieftains, who use arm-signals and ram’s-horns to try to organize the multitude into a semblance of marching order.

Behar-Bechukotai by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

It is true that Your wisdom is infinite, and that our mortal wisdom is lacking and incomplete,
But I have studied Your Laws to the best of my ability
Limited though it may be
And I have some disagreements, if You will forgive me.

Emor by By Rabbi David Hartley Mark

“And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying: ‘Whosoever be of your seed…who has a blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God. For the man who has a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or one who is maimed, or anything too long. Or a man who is broken-footed, or broken-handed, or hunchbacked, or a dwarf, or with a bad eye….” (Lev. 21:16-20)

Acharay Mote-Kedoshim By Rabbi David Hartley Mark

I am Aaron, brother of Moses. I am honored to be Kohen Gadol, the High Priest of Israel. Do not believe that my job or my life are easy. On the long-past Coronation Day of the Mishkan, God’s Sanctuary among His people, I recall how the cattle for sacrifice, the incense and grain-offerings were all made ready.

Tazria-Metzora By Rabbi David Hartley Mark

I am Kevudah, the “honored one,” wife of Eleazar, Aaron’s third son—but his eldest, now that Nadav and Avihu are dead, killed by the hand of God—the flames of God, I mean. They offered “strange fire”—some mistake in preparing the incense, we believe, as well as guilty of taking a drop of mead prior to the service—we will never know for sure, since the two young men—boys, really—were totally immolated by God’s fire. Just as they were about to wave their incense-pans, too. Horrible, horrible way to die, at the hands of the God we are commanded to love. And Who loves us. I wonder.

Shemini: The Deaths of Nadav & Avihu, Sons of Aaron By Rabbi David Hartley Mark

I am Avihu, the second son of Aaron, the High Priest; my elder brother is Nadav. This is our Big Day. Aaron—that is, Dad—is to dedicate the Mishkan, the Holy Sanctuary of the Wilderness, the Place where the One True God is to dwell. We will participate in the Ceremony of Dedication, too.

The Passover Seder of Mottke the Coachman By Rabbi David Hartley Mark

In 1797, the richest and most ornate of Chasidic rebbes was born: Rebbe Yisroel of Rizhin, known as the Rizhiner. Unlike other rebbes, who lived in outright poverty, he loved wealth and to be surrounded by beautiful objects. His Chasidim, who were mostly poor, did their best to satisfy his wants, since the Rizhiner claimed direct descent from King David, and believed that he ought to imitate the lifestyle of his notable ancestor—not in personal behavior, but in his surroundings.