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Parshat Yitro: Zipporah’s Lament

 

by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

 

24. And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him and sought to kill him.

25. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, "Surely a bloody husband art thou to me."

26. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.

--Exodus 4: 24-6

 

            When my father, Yitro, High Priest of Midian, told me he was going into the desert to visit Moses my husband, I had not wished to accompany him. How long should a young wife and mother be stuck in a clay hut, caring for a toddler and an infant, my own dear Gershom and Eleazar? Further, what if she never hears from her husband, not even once in three months? And then, it’s only secondhand rumors, rumors like, “Ohoo, Zippy, you’ll never guess what I heard about your husband—he and that Invisible God of you Hebrews took on Pharaoh’s own cavalry and smashed them to bits!”

           

Of course, I am proud of my Moses and his conquest of Egypt—what wife wouldn’t be? As they say, behind every successful man is an exhausted woman. And it’s not as though we’re living in primitive times—here it is, the 13th Century, BCE. Certainly, if this God can do anything, then defeating Pharaoh and his lackeys should be simple enough.

           

So I waited—but never heard from Moses. Why not? Was he ashamed of me and the boys? Perhaps he was angry over our having married—he used to call me his “Little Pagan.” And it wasn’t my fault I became pregnant with Gershy—I was only seventeen, and he a big, strapping twenty-two. Papa was certainly kind to us, before and after the baby was born—he loaned us the money to build this little house, which Moses never thought to pay back. And Papa never asked him for the money; he’s not rich, my father, but he has his pride. Ah, Moses, Moses....

           

Instead, early one evening, Moses packed a burlap bag and called out something to me about “The Lord God Ehyeh appeared to me in a Burning Bush!” He took my household money—without my permission— to rent a camel from Todrus the Trader. I thought him mad—bushes burn under the hot desert sun all the time; why did he believe that this bush contained a God? What sort of God shrinks Himself down into a thornbush? Why not a big, beautiful fruit tree, such as Mother has in our back pasture, and guards so carefully from animal or human thieves? I cannot understand....

           

The boys wanted to see their father again, and so I finally agreed to accompany Papa Yitro to visit the Israelite encampment. I wanted to see Aaron and Miriam—Aaron had been a great help to us when we were first married; he is a masterful peacemaker. When Moses and I were first married, we had our difficulties—how could an Israelite boy and a Midianite girl get along? Our tribes had been warring for so long, and both of us were so young.

                       

I had not yet met Miriam, my sister-in-law. I had heard of her triumphant dance, leading the womenfolk of Israel on the banks of the Sea of Reeds. Meanwhile, the troops of the evil Pharaoh were drowning in the tide. Celebrating people’s deaths, even of our enemies, seemed bloodthirsty to me, but 400 years of slavery was worse. Most tyrants, I have learned, are too full of themselves to care about anyone else, and Pharaoh was the worst that my new people Israel had ever met.

 

            And so it happened that I found myself swaying on a camel, my headdress wrapped tightly around my face. The hamseen blew sand through the cloth, no matter how I folded it over my mouth. Baby Eleazar cried from the heat, while Gershom, my toddler, looked around at all the sights and sounds of the desert—the tumbleweeds, the distant mountains, and blue sky everywhere, with just a few clouds. My new God was up in the sky somewhere, but silent to me. He spoke only to my Moses.

 

Papa rode in front on a donkey, thinking that it made him look lordly and regal; I did not agree. He was just a fat old duffer on an undersized steed, but I do love him. He is so wise, and so kind. He would turn around, cricking his neck to tell me how close we were getting to the Israelite camp, and how they had fought off the Amalekites, the most bloodthirsty of the desert tribes. The Amalekites had given our people a good drubbing, but, in the end, my Moses saved the day by keeping his arms aloft, with the help of Aaron and Chur.

 

Papa turned around, again: “We are almost at Pi-Hahirote! It won’t be long, Zipporah dear!”

 

The boys were asleep—the combined heat and camel-swaying had exhausted them, poor little ones. I was nearly asleep myself, but held on tightly to the saddle-horn. Papa burst into some Jebusite drinking-song he had learned from his friends at the tavern, even though, Ashtoret bless him, he cannot sing.

 

Eventually I nodded off, and dreamed hot, swaying dreams. At first, I dreamt of when I was very young, and Papa would sing me to sleep. He did not know any nursery songs, so he would have me thump on my little tambourine while he bellowed out:

                       

“Who is a hero?

                         I’ll tell you who a hero is:

                         One who can conquer

                         His evil intention, oh!

                        Who is a hero? etc.”

 

After that, the swaying and the blown sand made me think of that time when Moses and I were traveling by night—I am not certain why, but I believe it had something to do with fleeing the Egyptian police who were out to kill him. We were running night and day. Though I reminded him again and again, Moses had neglected to circumcise little Gershom, as any proper Hebrew ought to do.

 

We came to an inn, there on the edge of the desert, and I was bone-tired. Moses shook me and said, “Stay here, Zippy, and I will ask them if they have any lodging for us.”

 

He disappeared into the darkness—it was very late, and I can never get used to how dark it turns in the desert. There were candles in the windows of the inn, but very dim—the oil or wax was melting down. As quickly as he had disappeared, Moses reappeared, almost like a conjuring-trick. But he was not alone. As he came towards me, telling me that there was room at the inn, a formless, Black Demon-Shape was following behind him. It all seemed to be happening in slow motion. In my mind, I heard:

 

Daughter of Yitro! Your husband will perish, because your child is not circumcised according to the practices of Israel.

 

Instantly, I grabbed my flint knife and did the act upon my tiny son. He cried, but I had to rescue Moses from the Desert Demon-Shape: I grabbed the tiny flap of foreskin and made marks of blood on Moses’s thighs, shouting out the words to the Spirits of the Desert: “Surely, a bridegroom of blood art thou to me, through this blood of circumcision! Avaunt, Evil Spirit, and do not harm my husband or our son!”

 

Moses fainted. I ran to the inn for help, and they carried him to our room for the night. I took a rag and rubbed his forehead with vinegar and water the owner’s wife provided. All was well—but, oddly, from that night on, Moses would not smile upon me, nor offer me any caresses—I do not know why. We have suddenly grown apart. Is it because I, a simple country girl, have proven to be a better Hebrew than he is?

 

What am I to do? He has given himself over to his Invisible God, and never returns to me in the evenings, as he used to. The boys cry for their papa. Nevertheless, Papa and I have traveled far to see him, in his role as Prophet of Israel. When I first met him, years ago, I was just a girl, and he a dusty refugee, his feet and body cut in a myriad places by cactus and sawgrass. He was barely able to speak for thirst. I had poured him out cold, fresh water, and he had grown to love me....

 

O God of my estranged husband, what am I to do? Perhaps Miriam can help us—she is a Wise Woman, and so strong and holy!

 

A THING TO THINK

CANTOR JAVIER SMOLARZ

Your outer journey may contain a million steps; your inner journey only has one: the step you are taking right now.

                                                  Eckhart Tolle

 

 

This week’a parasha, BO starts this way:  Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh.”

Interesting is the word BO which is translated as GO really means COME.

So how can it be that you have to come to Pharaoh instead of GO to him?

Well, maybe we can interpretate this as when you have to go on a special journey, you need FIRST to come into yourself, look around your soul, and then you will be able to GO to the place you have to or you choose to GO.

Just a little thing to think.

Shabbat Shalom

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OUR RABBI - David Hartley Mark

WATCH RABBI MARK , To Life, L'Chaim #217 - Rabbi David Mark (You Tube)

Rabbi David Hartley Mark

Rabbi David Hartley Mark was born in New York City, and grew up on the Lower East Side, that legendary Jewish immigrant neighborhood, attending Hebrew Day School. He was first from his school, the East Side Torah Center, to attend Yeshiva University High School for Boys—Manhattan. David attended Yeshiva University, where he attained a BA in English Literature, a BS in Bible and Jewish Education, and a Hebrew Teacher’s Diploma (HTD). He spent his third year of college at Bar Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel, where he developed a fluency in Hebrew, and toured around the country. He has also attained a Certificate in Advanced Jewish School Administration from the Hebrew College in Brookline, MA.

David attended the City University of New York Graduate Center, where he earned an MA degree from Queens College, as well as an M.Phil. degree, majoring in 17th Century English, specializing in the work of John Milton, as well as the Romantic Poets. A year teaching Hebrew School in a Reform temple in Brooklyn convinced him of his great love of Judaism, and he began attending the Academy for Jewish Religion, Yonkers, NY, where he was ordained a rabbi in 1980.

 

He met Anbeth, who was hired as temple secretary the same day he was hired to teach. They were married in 1978. They have two grown children, Tyler and Jordan, as well as a grandson, Aidan.

 

Rabbi Mark served pulpits in Warren, NJ, Fayetteville, NC, and Portsmouth, NH, in which last pulpit he spent 22 years, a record for that state. Seeking warmer climes, as well as closer family members, he and Anbeth took the pulpit of Temple Sholom in 2009. He also fulfilled a lifetime dream of teaching English at Keiser University in Ft. Lauderdale.  

 

OUR CANTOR - Javier Smolarz

Cantor Javier Smolarz

Cantor Smolarz comes to us originally from Argentina and via Congregations in various U.S. localities, joining Temple Sholom in September of 2018, where he has been wholeheartedly embraced by the Congregation.  His strong beautiful singing voice is coupled with a great sense of presence and decorum, but with a warm welcoming demeanor - all of which enhances our morning minyans and shabbat and holiday services.

 

 

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Tue, January 18 2022 16 Shevat 5782