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.).

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