Kirby, the Shih Tzu, on the Current Situation


By David Hartley Mark


Scene: Dave is watching the news on TV, which is full of Charlottesville, Spain, the president, racism, and pundits. Kirby, having had a haircut late the day before, is recovering from the emotional experience of losing his hair, and taking a nap. He arouses himself, and speaks:


Kirby: Dave, can I ask you a question?


Dave: Sure, Kirb. Yes, you look very handsome in your new haircut.


Kirby: Thank you—I know that I do—but that’s not it.


Dave: Something else?


Kirby: Yes. Now, you know that we Shih Tzus are not working dogs. We are companion dogs. This gives me lots of time to chase you around, and, more frequently, Mommy. I am required by Shih Tzu Law to be with you constantly, unless you and I are alone in the house, in which case I mourn Mommy’s absence and refuse to believe that she will return. Still, you know that I spend a lot of time by the TV, where my favorite bed is located—


Dave: What is your question?


K: Well, briefly, what is with you people? In Charlottesville, one group of people goes marching and saying that they hate other people. The other group gets up and defends the American Way of Life, whatever that is.


D: Yes, that is a fairly good summary of the present situation.


K: That’s not the point. I’m saying that Shih Tzus don’t act this way. No dog ever acts this way. You spend a lot of time telling me how you belong to a superior species—


D: I do?


K: –and use that as an excuse not to give me a yummy or a little bit of what food you’re having, even when I’m doing my little begging dance, which is adorable.


D: Well, it’s hard to be a human. Also, Mommy thinks you’re getting a little—chubby.


K: That’s not nice. Or true. With all due respect, it’s hard to be a Shih Tzu. Or a Maltese, or any small dog. I was discussing this with Rowdy, the Yoodle—Yorkie-Poodle—and Reese, the Pomeranian. We all agree: you humans really suck at being—well, human.


D: Tell me more about how dogs are better than people.


K: Please! Would you see a dog attack another, unless it was mentally ill or some stupid human taught them to do that? But you humans have been fighting a lot. It bothers me. It worries me. I don’t like to worry.


D: I agree with you.


K: So, I’m asking you to stop.


D: It’s not that easy.


K: Well, I can understand that. I saw those guys on TV. They don’t like Jews or African-Americans, Muslims, Hispanics, and a bunch of other people. I don’t even think they like themselves. They spend a lot of time spewing their self-hate against other dogs—I mean, people.


D: So what would you do?


K: We discussed this, Rowdy and Reese and I. Now remember, we’re little, and not very brave, except the Terrier part of Rowdy. But we came up with a plan.


D: What’s the plan?


K: We would bark. Whenever the other side started to bark at us, we would bark back. But we wouldn’t fight them. And we would depend on police dogs to take care of them.


D: Well, the police don’t always do such a great job, especially where people of color are concerned.


K: So work on getting you humans to talk to each other! I don’t mean the weird guys who hate Jews—I’m Chinese-Jewish, myself, from the Old Country of China—


D: You’re from the Little Dog Rescue in Davie. You don’t even know where China is.


K: Please don’t deprive me of my cultural heritage.


D: Sorry.


K: Anyway, you have to bark at those people, not fight them. Mostly, we dogs go up and smell each other’s faces and tushies. Then, we wag. Then, there’s the thing about those statues—


D: What would you do about that? That is a flash point between the two sides, too.


K: Well, I don’t really know much about statues. We dogs mostly pee on them.


D: Well, how do you feel about dog statues?


K: Like Mommy puts in the garden?


D: No, more like in public places. Like Greyfriars Bobby in Scotland, and Balto in New York’s Central Park. Statues commemorating a dogwho was either very faithful to his master, or the sled dog who carried the serum through to Nome.


K: Are the statues hurting anyone?


D: No.


K: Are they upsetting anyone?


D: No.


K: Well, isn’t it obvious? If I saw a swastika, it would certainly bother and frighten the Jewish part of me. Do I have to tell you what to do about this issue? You’re a college teacher, for Sirius’s sake.


D: I guess you’re right.


K: Well, thank you for discussing this with me.


D: Thank YOU. Oh, and one more thing, Kirby.


K: What’s that?


D: What about the president?


K: The president? Oh. Him.


D: Yes?


K: Time for my nap. You humans shouldn’t need a Shih Tzu to tell you how to deal with the president. Isn’t this America?IMG_0757.jpg

Re’eh: Two Young Sentries at War

Reeh: Two Young Sentries at War


By Rabbi David Hartley Mark


“When you cross the Jordan River and settle in the Land into which the LORD your God is bequeathing to you, and He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, you [will] settle there in security.” –Deut. 12:10 (adapted)


Scene: Night on the Golan Heights, known in Biblical times as Bashan, the former kingdom of both King Og and King Sichon. They were killed in battle, but it is still largely Amorite territory. Enter Chananel ben Kedar, an Israelite citizen-soldier. He is just nineteen years old, armed with a sharpened stick and a makeshift shield.


Chananel (to himself): I’m glad that it’s quiet tonight. When I stood sentry duty two nights ago, the howling of the jackals was scary. And Sergeant Ruchi told me that this standing guard is very important. (He sits on a large rock, puts down his weapons, stretches.) But I’m so tired!


Enter Arioch ben Hevron, an Amorite sentry. Like Chananel, he is nearly twenty, with long brown hair and the beginnings of a beard. He squats down on the other side of a large rock, out of Chananel’s line of vision. He speaks:


Arioch: It’s not fair that Corporal Tsuribaal should make me do sentry-go by myself. If my friend Mephi-Ishtar had not eaten that spoiled meat and gotten an ache in his guts, he would surely have accompanied me. This is too lonely.


Bored, Chananel has been idly tossing small pebbles against the large Golani rocks. They make a pinging noise when they strike the boulders. Hearing the noise, Arioch brandishes his spear and shield fearfully:


Arioch: Who’s that, ha? Um—uh—give the password! And then—what’s next? I can never remember—advance and be recognized!


Chananel (calls from behind the boulder): The password is shibboleth—it’s me! Who is that? Is it you, Achlav?


Arioch (still fearful): I know no shib—shib—whatever password you gave me. The correct password is Eli-Baal, “Baal is my god.”

Chananel (seeing Arioch for the first time): It’s dark here, and I can’t see well. But I can tell, even in the half-light, that you are not Achlav. Oh-my-Elohim—are you an—an—Amorite?


Arioch (clutching his spear, holding it before him): And you—you’re one of those Israelite vermin that my captain warned us about! Stand right there, Israelite, or taste the bronze tip on my spear.


Chananel: I’m not afraid of you, Idolater! (The two circle one another, warily, holding their spears against one another). Just come closer, and I’ll skewer you on my mighty spear.


Arioch: What, that toothpick? You Israelites better arm yourselves in a more modern fashion, or our mighty Amorite troops will drive you back—back—to Egypt! Ha! Oh-my-oops! (He trips over a tree-root, and falls) Ow! Ow, my ankle!


Chananel (drops his spear, runs to help Arioch): Oh my, Amorite—are you all right? (He drops to his knees and tries to examine the ankle) It’s so dark here—never mind, let me look.


Arioch (in exaggerated pain): It hurts! Oh, Baal, how will I get back to barracks at dawn?


Chananel (taking the sweatband off his head): Here, I can make this into an ankle-bandage. Hold still.


Arioch: All very well for you, Israelite. Say—what’s your name, anyway? I need to know, for when I take you prisoner.


Chananel: Why, what’s to stop me from taking you prisoner?


Arioch: That’s true. Anyway, my name is Arioch ben Edrei. Who are you?


Chananel: They call me Chananel ben Kedar.


Arioch: Pleased to meet you. I think my ankle feels better. Just a sprain.


Chananel: Let me help you up (He does so.). How’s it feel?


Arioch: Well, I can’t walk on it, but I can hop. Thank you, Israelite—I mean, Chananel.


Chananel: The sun is coming up. Don’t you have to get back to your town, and sacrifice a child, or something?


Arioch: Sacrifice a child? Who told you that nonsense? We sacrifice cattle, same as you. I saw you people from afar the other night, with all that great hoopla that your holy folk perform at the altar. Our sacrifices are much simpler.


Chananel: Don’t you have priests?


Arioch: Of course we do. But we all take turns at it.


Chananel: What an amazing idea! I must mention it to my captain—not that he will believe me. Just before I went on duty, he said, “And Boy, be careful of those Amorites—they might make you eat mice. And avoid their women.”


Arioch: Why, what’s wrong with our women? My little sister, Tikvah, is just sixteen, and she has to beat the boys off with a stick.


Chananel: Really? My tribe—that is, Zebulon—has no marriageable women. I may have to look to another tribe. My mother isn’t sure if that’s a good idea.


Arioch: Do you have matchmaking, or do you marry for love?


Chananel: Matchmaking, of course. Young people cannot choose a mate for themselves—Pinchas the Priest told us that.


Arioch: Say, when we both mount sentry duty tomorrow night, do you want to meet and talk some more?


Chananel: Sure—I guess. I can bring some grapes, if you want.


Arioch: I can bring oranges. The sun is higher now. I have to go. Give me a boost, will you, Chananel?


Chananel: Sure, Arioch (lifting him). Here you go. Shalom, my friend.


Arioch: Shalom (They clasp hands; both exit.).