Pinchas by David Hartley Mark

This parsha/Torah reading presents more evidence of Moses’s continuing decline as a leader, poor fellow, due to years of overwork, as well as old age. Here is the aftershock of a plague which God sent to punish the Israelite men for their succumbing to the temptations of Moabite and Midianite temptresses. Sadly, Moses is unable […]

Pinchas by David Hartley Mark

This parsha/Torah reading presents more evidence of Moses’s continuing decline as a leader, poor fellow, due to years of overwork, as well as old age. Here is the aftershock of a plague which God sent to punish the Israelite men for their succumbing to the temptations of Moabite and Midianite temptresses. Sadly, Moses is unable […]

Haftorah of Balak: Prophet Micah, 5:6-6-8 by David Hartley Mark

It is useful to turn from the well-known tale of Bilaam’s donkey to the life-story of the Prophet Micah, who spoke Truth to Power in his day (end of 8th Century BCE). He was a younger contemporary of First Isaiah, and lived in a small town about twenty miles southwest of Jerusalem, Moreshet Gath. Like […]

Chukat by David Hartley Mark

Miriam and Aaron: A Dialogue in Heaven Note: This Torah Portion includes the deaths of both Miriam (related in one scant verse, Num. 20:1) and Aaron (eight verses, 20:22-29), as well as the tragedy of Moses, whom God commands to speak to a rock, which will split and bring forth water for the thirsty, quarrelsome […]

Korach by David Hartley Mark

Royal Egyptian Army Military Dispatch: Official Eyes Only Garrison Report, Fortress #14, South-West Boundary, Kingdom of Pharaoh Merneptah, Year 1209 of the Reign of Sacred Pharaoh-Father-Ruler Merneptah-Baenre-Merynetjeru. Greetings! I, Horemheb, Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding, 57th Battalion, “Battle-Falcons,” Royal Egyptian Infantry, do submit the following Monthly Report of Our Troop Activities Guarding the South-West Boundary of Merneptah’s Sacred […]

Shlach: The Tale of the Spies by David Hartley Mark

Scene: A tribal harvest-feast, in Canaan, c. 1380 BCE. Israelites of the tribe of Benjamin have celebrated with food, barley beer, wine, dance and song, thanking their Desert God, Adonoi, or He-Who-Is, for a bountiful harvest and large flocks of cattle, sheep and goats. The cooking-fires have died down, hearts are warm and bellies are […]

Behaalotecha: Miriam and Zipporah by David Hartley Mark

What are we doing In this dark land with its Yellow shadows that pierce the eyes? (Every now and then someone says, even after forty Or fifty years: “The sun is killing me.”) What are we doing with these souls of mist, with these names, With our eyes of forests, with our beautiful children, With […]

Haftorah of Naso: The Prayer of Shamira, Mother of Samson by David Hartley Mark

Author’s Note: Biblical scholar James Kugel (How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then & Now, NY: Free Press, 2007) sums up Modern Biblical Criticism by stating that the Samson story is unique in the Book of Judges. Most of the judges/tribal chieftains are charismatic leaders (Gideon, Jephtah, Deborah) whom God appears to […]

Bamidbar by David Hartley Mark

I turn to this week’s Torah portion, the first in the Book of Numbers, Sefer BaMidbar, literally, “In the Wilderness.” It is a relief, after the dry, priestly-purity legislation of Vayikra/Leviticus, to find some narrative leavening the endless Torah laws. God commands Moses to number the people, and here, my hackles rise: census-counting is never […]

Behar-Bechukotai by David Hartley Mark

We Jews have every reason to be proud, since we gifted Shabbat, the Holy Sabbath, to the world. Originally, Shabbatum was a gloomy day the Babylonians invented, sort of a Friday-the-Thirteenth, a bad-luck-day coming each week, during which superstitious pagans would stay at home, scared to go outside, lest something evil befall them. We took […]