Vaera by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

Vaera: God, Moses, and Aaron Confer

by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

Scene: The thorny Burning Bush, smoking and crackling. Moses, holding a runaway lamb, strains hard to listen to the Celestial Voice of God, while simultaneously keeping the sheep and goats away from the flames. (There are no camels—not yet domesticated at this time.)

Moses: Lord God, let me understand this: the Kingdom of Egypt is the mightiest in the world at this time. How do You propose to get Pharaoh Ramesses II’s  attention, let alone free Your people?

God: Leave that to Me. In the meantime, here are the Four Expressions of Liberation which I will promise to your People, and will, in time, fulfill—

M: Excuse me for interrupting, again—but I’m the fellow who’s putting his life on the line, here. I have never before heard of a God who interferes in Human Destiny. Most gods I have heard of are mainly self-centered troublemakers.

G (feeling pressured): Well, I’m not your ordinary god, as you will see. Here are the Expressions—

M: Sorry, again. What exactly is Your plan for weakening the Egyptians—have you seen their Army, by the way? Those chariots are formidable. I’m just curious and, frankly, sort of anxious.

G: Plagues.

M: Plagues?

G: Yes: water into blood, frogs, lice, mixtures—either of flying insects or wild animals, I haven’t decided which—cattle plague, boils, and so on.

M: Really? This is all news to me. Well, I feel somewhat better—hey, Whitebeard, stay away from the bush! Silly goat. Oh, sorry. What are the Four Expressions?

G: Ahem. “And I will take your People out of Egypt; and I will save you from Pharaoh and his forces; I will redeem you from slavery, and I will embrace you as My people.”

M: Is that all? What about getting us tothe Land of Our Ancestors, Israel? It’s been a long time to be in exile.

G: Um, yes; that too, of course.

M: Why did you leave it out?

G: Um—I forgot.

M: A God Who forgets?

G: Well, I didn’t really forget. I kind of figured that we would concentrate on the first four, and get back to the other, after.

M: Are You sure? Are You not telling me something?

G (evasively): Watch out for that sheep! Wait’ I’ve got this—

(God performs a miracle by lifting up the sheep, thereby protecting it  from the flames. This distracts Moses, and he forgets his question.)

G: Shouldn’t you and Aaron be going? Don’t you have some liberating to do? Here he comes; do you see him?

M (shading his eyes): Too much smoke and flame….

Aaron: Brother! I’ve missed you so much!(They hug) Pah! Why do you smell like smoke and ashes?

M: What, you couldn’t come visit me in Midian? And I’ve been standing this bush, you see.

A: The bush burns, but is not consumed! Remarkable. Um—I had to keep an eye on Mother and Miriam, and—and—oh, bad luck!! Pharaoh’s Secret Police were shadowing me everywhere. Well, Brother Moses, what news?

M: There’s this Invisible God—(he points; Aaron sees nothing, of course) and He wants us to go into Egypt and confront Pharaoh.

A: Are you sure? It will be dangerous.

M: God says that He’ll protect us. Have you got your staff?

A: No, it’s just me.

M: I mean your shepherd’s crook.

A: Why?

M: We’re going to make it change into a serpent.

A: Why?

M: To impress Pharaoh.

A: Is that all you’ve got? I don’t know how impressed he’ll be. That old stick-into-snake trick is passe in Egypt. I saw Khufu Copperfield do it once—since that time, everyone and his mummy are doing it.

God(in Moses’s mind): Tell him that I’ve got different stuff planned.

Moses: Don’t worry, Aaron. This God is the Real Thing.

Aaron: Do you really think so? We’ve had other liberators come and go, over the last four hundred years. I don’t want anything to happen to you, if this god doesn’t pan out—

M: Don’t worry. I have a good feeling about this One. He said that He would send plagues.

A: Plagues? You mean like a famine, or a drought, as in Grandpa Joseph’s time?

M: No; better. The idea is to keep it new and fresh.

A: I don’t see how a plague can be new and fresh.

M (losing patience): Brother, just trust me. Have a little faith.

A: Well, we’ve maintained our faith for the last four centuries; it’s getting old.

God: Aaron! This is the Lord God of your ancestors. I swear by Myself, that I will free you from slavery.

Aaron: Where’s that voice coming from? I just don’t want to see everyone get their hopes up, and then be disappointed….

God: O ye of little faith! I conjure you, Aaron, My Priest-to-Be; trust in Me.

Moses: Well, we better go.

Aaron: Shouldn’t you thank your father-in-law, Jethro, for his kindness? What about fetching Zipporah, and your sons, Gershom and Elazar?

Moses: No; they’ll catch up, I suppose.

(The Brothers rush off to Egypt, where the drama begins.)

Rabbi David Hartley Mark is from New York City’s Lower East Side. He attended Yeshiva University, the City University of NY Graduate Center for English Literature, and received semicha at the Academy for Jewish Religion. He currently teaches English at Everglades University in Boca Raton, FL, and has a Shabbat pulpit at Temple Sholom of Pompano Beach. His literary tastes run to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Stephen King, King David, Kohelet, Christopher Marlowe, and the Harlem Renaissance.

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