Vaera by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

  A Word from Pharaoh RaMesses II, 1279-1212 BC   I am Ramesses II, mightiest of the pharaohs. My father Seti I raised Me to be both warrior and statesman—not to say lover; I had eight wives, if you please—and I believe I made him proud. From My youngest days I rode to war in […]

Bechukotai by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

Bechukotai (בחקתי) Torah: Leviticus 26:3 – 27:34 Haftarah: Jeremiah 16:19 – 17:14 “If you will walk according to My laws….” (Lev. 26:3) Torah study is one of the most important mitzvot, commandments, for Jews to pursue in their lives. In explaining the above quotation which begins our Torah portion, Rashi (1040-1105), prince of Torah Commentators, says […]

Parsha Metzora by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

Parsha Metzora (מצרע) Torah: Leviticus 14:1-15:33 Haftarah: II Kings 7:3-7:20 My years of dealing with this parsha/Torah portion have drained the intellectual well dry: its tiresome subject is leprosy, again. For a change of pace, therefore, I turn to Haftarat Metzora (though we will not be chanting it this year, in favor of Malachi, since it is Shabbat […]

Parsha Vayikra by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

Vayikra Leviticus 1:1 – 5:26 Isaiah 43:21 – 44:23 With this Parsha/Torah Reading, we enter upon the third book of the Chumash/Pentateuch, known as Vayikra, “And God called,” or by its Latin name, Leviticus, the Laws of the Levites and Priests. This last name is close to its other Hebrew name, Torat Kohanim, or the […]

Parsha Pekuday: By Rabbi David Hartley Mark

Parsha Pekuday Torah: Exodus 38:21 – 40:38 Haftarah: I Kings 7:51 – 8:21 (Ashk) I Kings 7:40 – 7:50 (Sphd) It is lonesome and harsh in the Wilderness, when the khamseen, the hot desert wind, blows; I know this. In 1972, when Israel still held firm control of Sinai, a group of us students from […]

Vayakhel: Building a Sacred Community by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

Vayakhel (Shabbat Shekalim) Torah: Exodus 35:1 – 38:20 Haftarah:  II Kings 12:1 – 12:17 How do people bond? I can only look at this from a male point of view. I googled Male Bonding Activities on the Web—you can find everything on the Web—and came up with this site. Men like to fix things, play […]

Were the Maccabees Political Liberals or Conservatives? by David Hartley Mark

My first encounter with the Maccabees involved opening a box of Barton’s Chocolates: I was seven years old. There they lay, flat little Jewish soldiers wrapped in blue-and-gold foil, smiling smugly, each one brandishing a sword and a shield emblazoned with a Star of David, ready to take on the fiercest foes—also, presumably, made of […]

Parsha Noah by David Hartley Mark

“Noah—oh, for the love of Marduk—Noah! Wake up!” I had been walking in a sunny vale, chasing after yellow-golden butterflies; I could not catch them, though I swear, my feet felt as light as when I was a little boy: the breeze ruffled my hair, I heard birds singing sweetly; not too far-off, there, amid […]

Parsha Behaalotcha by David Hartley Mark

This parsha/Torah portion shows the Israelites developing their rituals in the wilderness, with the Levites taking charge of the portable sanctuary, lighting the menorah/seven-branched candlelabra and purifying themselves to serve God. A now-defunct Pesach Sheni/Second Passover is described, for the benefit of those Israelites who had been tamay/ritually impure and thereby unable to observe the […]

The Salad Days of Moses: Parsha Shemote

​I like Moses a lot. I commiserate with him: how can one be “the humblest of men” but at the same time, lead a people so fractious, argumentative, and independent-minded as us Jews? And yet, that was his life’s mission: self-destructively workaholic, misogynistic more than often, and not much of a father (his two sons are mere names, […]