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 […]

Ha’azinu by David Hartley Mark

Is one permitted to not like a piece of Biblical poetry? I have been reading, chanting, and studying this parsha/Torah Reading for all of my life, and Ha’azinu continually grates on me, year after year. Why? Because it illustrates a viewpoint of religious theodicy with which I disagree: that if bad things happen to us, […]

Vayelech by David Hartley Mark

Moses gives Joshua and the Israelites a final exhortation and prophecy about crossing over Jordan and defeating the Canaanites: “Chazak veh’eh’matz—Be strong and courageous; God will not fail you or forsake you” (Deut. 7-8, adapted). Moses completes the writing of the Torah, except for the last few verses, which speak of his death. Joshua must […]

Nitzavim by David Hartley Mark

Here, Moses commands all Israel to remain faithful to the sacred covenant with God, always and forevermore. To whom exactly is he speaking? The text reels through time, beginning with the Dor Haye’tsiah/Exodus Generation, which escaped Egypt and died in the wilderness, and shifting to the Dor HaMidbar/Wilderness Generation, born after the sin of the […]

Ki Tavo by David Hartley Mark

“Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, ‘Observe all the Mitzvote/Commandments that I command you this day. …Silence! Listen, Israel! Today you have become the People of the Lord your God: hear God’s voice and perform His commandments and laws. …After you have crossed the Jordan, these tribes shall stand on Mt. […]

Reeh by David Hartley Mark

“See, I give before you this day a blessing and a curse. The blessing, that you will listen to the Commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day. And the curse, if you will not listen to the Commandments of the Lord your God, and you turn from the Way which […]

Eikev by David Hartley Mark

“When you have eaten and satisfied your appetites, and built fine homes to live in, and your cattle and sheep have increased, and your silver and gold has grown, as have all of your possessions, be careful not to let your hearts become haughty and forget the Lord your God, who took you out of […]

Vaetchanan by David Hartley Mark

In the Musee du Louvre, the world-famous art museum in Paris, France, there stands—or, rather, sits—a statue dating from Egypt, in 2450 BCE (Old Kingdom, Fifth Dynasty). It is not a dramatically tall depiction of a rampant Pharaoh, striding forward boldly with spear and shield in hand; neither is it a scarab-beetle, or dragon-like crocodilian […]

Devarim by David Hartley Mark

Call me Avishai ben Bered, of the Tribe of Zevulun, but my name and tribe are not important. I am a recorder, who remembers the stories and chronicles of us Israelites in the Wilderness, to tell my sons and my son’s sons, so that these stories will not be lost, forever. Here it is, another […]

Mattot by David Hartley Mark

Scene: A storage-tent, full of bags of gold and silver, vessels of copper, iron tools and weapons, tin gimcracks, leaden vessels—“any vessel that can withstand fire” (Num. 31:21-23). These items of booty are waiting to be “passed through fire” and thereby ritually purified of their pagan connections, while other items—fine glass, coated pottery, enamelwork—lie, carefully […]