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.

Tzav (Shabbat HaGadol) by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

This Shabbat is known at Shabbat HaGadol, the “Great Shabbat,” for various reasons: it immediately precedes Pesach, and its famous haftorah concludes with the Elijah prophecy foretelling the Messianic Age: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord” (Malachi 3:24). Since most Jews, from childhood on, know Elijah only as the well-traveled fellow who visits every Jewish home during the Pesach Seder to quaff a beaker of wine, they never identify him with the short-tempered prophet and enemy of Ahab and Jezebel (I Kings 16-21) who defends the Jewish God against overwhelming odds—but it makes for exciting reading.

Vayikra by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

Call me the Tempter. Most Jews know me as the Yetzer Ha-Ra, the Evil Inclination. Who am I? I am the Voice of Evil whispering in your ear; I am the soft urge which bids you to look where you know you should not. I push you to steal, to lie, to gossip, backbite, change a number in an accounting book. I inspire bored people to commit adultery. I am, perhaps, the single cause of more evil in the world since Time began; I am a perpetual troubler. I am the hair in your soup, the driver who steals your parking spot, the false friend who proposes to the Girl of Your Dreams, a second before you get up your nerve.

Ki Tisa by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

Most of us know the story well: Moses follows God’s commands and ascends Mt. Sinai amid smoke and thunder, to receive the Ten Commandments, to be carved out of solid stone by God, using a fingertip of lightning. Moses appoints Aaron, his brother and the High Priest, to supervise the Israelites during his absence. But Aaron is a poor classroom monitor, as I like to say, and he gives the fearful, misbehaving Israelites free rein to do as they wish—and they disobey God’s express command, using a large amount of their Egyptian gold and silver to build a Golden Calf, despite being expressly forbidden to perform idol worship.

Tetzaveh by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

Call me Aaron ben Amram v’Yocheved. The Kohen Gadol? Yes, I am; I admit it; I am the High Priest. But, before that, I was the middle child, born following Miriam, my sister, the Bechorah, the First-Born, the Passed-Over One, the Dancer-and-Singer, the Poet-Prophetess.