“Excerpt from ‘Judges’ in the Old Testament: Newly Translated by Rebis”
by Rebis Kahler
Judah Takes the Lead
After Joshua died, the Israelites asked the Lord, “Who should lead the invasion against the Canaanites and launch the attack?” The Lord said, “No one. Invasion is wrong.” The men of Judah turned to their relatives, the men of Simeon who were known for their bright red butts, and said. “Invade our allotted land with us and help us attack the Canaanites. Then we will go with you into your allotted land and give you STD’s.” So the men of Simeon went with them leaving the Lord to ask, “What, am I speaking in tongues?”
The men of Judah savagely attacked the Canaanites and Perizzites and the Lord said, “What is your problem? Did you not hear me tell you invasion is wrong?” The men of Judah killed ten thousand men at Bezek before realizing that they now would never get back the money loaned out to them. They met Adoni-Bezek at Bezek and fought him over who would pick up the tab for the burials and, soon after, defeated the Canaanites and Perizzites at strip poker. When Adoni-Bezek ran away in humiliation, they chased after and captured him. Then they cut off his thumbs and big toes. Adoni-Bezek said, “Seventy kings, with thumbs and big toes cut off, used to lick up food scraps under my table. God has repaid me for what I did to them.” The Lord spoke, “Don’t blame me for the actions of this pack of psychopaths.” The men of Judah brought Adoni-Bezek to Jerusalem where he eventually died due to his inability to pick up a fork without thumbs. The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem and captured it. They put the sword to it and set the city on fire once again leaving themselves homeless in the desert.
Later the men of Judah went down to attack the Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev, and the lowlands. The men of Judah attacked the Canaanites living in Hebron. (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba but was changed because too many misspellings of ‘Kiriath’ caused problems with the local postal service.) They killed Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai for no particular reason and, from there, attacked the people of Debir. (Debir used to be called Kiriath Sepher until the mayor learned to read the town’s welcome sign.) Caleb said, “To the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher I will give my daughter Acsah as a wife.” The Lord spoke, “The name of the place is ‘Debir’ and I don’t advocate giving away women as prizes.” When Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, captured it, Caleb gave him his daughter Acsah as a wife. Othniel asked Caleb, “May I use her as a goat rather than as a wife for, seriously, I need the milk.” To which Caleb replied, “No. Just shut-up and marry your cousin.”
One time Acsah came and charmed her father so she could ask him for some land and a flyswatter. When she got down from her donkey, Caleb said to her, “It’s about time you got off your ass. What would you like?” She answered, “Please give me a special present as opposed to just a regular present because I’d like a special present. Since you have given me land in the Negev, now give me springs of water to put out the fires the men keep starting.” So Caleb gave her both the upper and lower springs and said, “Here is your water. Would you care for some figs with that?” Acseh replied, “No thank you, father. The last time I served figs to Othniel he beat me, for he fears them.” Caleb responded, “As he rightfully should.” The Lord pinched the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger while shaking his head ruefully.
Now the descendants of the Kenite, Moses’ father-in-law, gathered up their golf clubs and went up with the people of Judah from the City of Date Palm Trees to Arad, the toughest sandtrap in the desert of Judah, located in the Negev. They went and lived with the people of Judah who, though very gracious, often complained about the descendants of the Kenite whenever they were out of earshot.
The men of Judah went with their brothers, the diseased red butted men of Simeon, and defeated the Canaanites living in Zephath. They wiped out Zephath. So people now call the city Hormah which, in the tongue of Judah, means Zephath. The men of Judah captured Gaza, Ashkelon, Ekron, and the territory surrounding each of these cities only to realize the cities had already belonged to them. The Lord spoke, “I fear this incident in Gaza will not go well in the long run”.
Despite having better places to be, the Lord was with the men of Judah. The men of Judah conquered the hill country, but they could not conquer the people living in the coastal plain, because they had chariots with iron-rimmed wheels, and the Lord was not about to give this technology to a bunch of cruel bastards. Caleb received Hebron, just as Moses had promised, and drove out the three Anakites to watch a new show opening in the theater district. The men of Benjamin, who had mistaken their loincloths for weapons, did not conquer the Jebusites living in Jerusalem. The Jebusites live with the people of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this very day despite the lease clearly stating no more than 4 occupants to an apartment.
“Under the Bodhi Tree”
by Spencer Sapienza
And Siddhartha Gautama came to sit under the pipal tree. Its heart-shaped leaves shone in the sun and its figs grew ripe and beckoned the hungry. The sacred fig- Vishnu’s proclamations ensured a place in the hearts of the pious, and yet it humbly flowered like any other plant.
Now having been forsaken by his brothers in search of Enlightenment, Siddhartha proclaimed: “I will not leave this spot until I have found it.” Siddhartha folded his legs upon one another. Open to the world, relaxed, but superbly focused. He stared deep into the nearby grove and yet did not see it at all. His mind was full of memories of childhood and the persistence of Om. Had he finally put away his days of dependence on wealth? Dependence on poverty? Or piety? Pleasures of the body? On routine?
Siddhartha meditated for days. It was eternal and brief. Time folded around his crossed legs and flowed through his breath. At once he felt how far he had come and the lengths he must still journey.
After some time two men came to the pipal tree. Siddhartha sat on the other side of the trunk from them- his back to the entrance to the woods and facing eternity. The men lacked grace and made a ruckus. They attempted to climb the tree and failed. They jumped and landed on sharp stones. They squealed and barked. Despite not seeing the Brahmin’s son deep in meditation, they felt their noise disrupting something.
They walked around the trunk and saw Siddhartha there. Despite the tree cover he shone as bright as the highest heart-shaped leaves of the pipal, the sacred fig.
“Hey.” They said.
And Siddhartha replied “Om.” For he was genuinely beyond their reach.
“Wait, is that your name: Um?” This time, Siddhartha said nothing, as the two men were coming into his view. “What kind of name is that? Hi, Um. Is this your tree?” Siddhartha’s eyes opened, vibrant as birth. Siddhartha saw the two men now, one well fed and one gaunt.
“Good day, travelers. This tree? I suppose it belongs to me as much as it does to the grove or to Vishnu or to all the pipal trees that came before it, in that I have made my way here and made it my own.”
“So… it’s not yours?” The two men scratched themselves. “We’ve been walking for so long. I could eat a horse, but I’ll settle for some figs,” said the larger one. He offered a smile and Siddhartha returned it.
“I’m sure as long as you take what you can eat then the tree will be happy to share. Look how plentiful, and it hangs down in offering.”
“Yes. They look delicious. Do you mind?” The large one approached Siddhartha, his crotch even with Siddhartha’s head and reached to grab a fig as purple as any ever seen.
He bit into it and chewed noisily. Juice dribbled down his chin.
“Please.” Siddhartha gestured for the thin one to take his own fruit. This man looked sickly.
“Thanks, Um, but I’m not hungry. I’m in need of the powerful medicine within the seeds and leaves. Pardon me.” And the thin man approached Siddhartha as his friend had, his tunic rubbing Siddharta’s nose. “You see, Um, I had several bad figs at our last rest stop and upset myself. I’ll make a paste of these and-“ the thin one did not finish before running off to a secluded corner to remedy his ailment. When the large one had swallowed his last bite the sounds of the sick man relieving himself could be heard.
“While I am saddened by your condition it is almost beautiful.” Siddhartha professed. “The tree provides food and the cure to sickness brought on by the food. Truly, everything is at once itself and the opposite.” But the sick man could not hear over the intonations of his body. Siddhartha spoke to the large one. “Tell your friend the pipal leaves are good for many illnesses: stomach pain, difficulty breathing, inflammation. Even venereal disease.” The large man nodded and took additional seeds and leaves.
“Better grab some extra… for my friend…”
The travelers gave well wishes and went on their way.
Alone again, Siddhartha allowed Om and the steadiness of his heart to carry him away. The warmth of the days and chill of the nights were felt as one. The darkness behind his eyelids rushed towards a single point of light; he moved towards it.
And then a Holy Man tripped on him.
“Ouch!” They both said. The Holy Man scrambled on the ground and Siddhartha rubbed a tender part of his head. The Holy Man stood and the two locked eyes. They saw each other. This was one of Siddhartha’s old travelling companions, a friend who he had journeyed with for years as an ascetic, learning and searching for answers.
“Um, hi.” the Holy Man said.
“Good day.” Siddhartha’s head was no longer sore where it had been hit but he kept rubbing it despite.
“A lovely day indeed. Quite humorous to find you here, Siddhartha. I trust you are still on your path to enlightenment then?” the Holy Man said. Siddhartha inhaled the priest’s condescension and released it.
“Surely. I have been praying beneath this fine tree for some time now. And how is your path treating you?” Siddhartha studied the lines of his old friend’s face; he looked exactly as he’d left him, possibly a little older… Siddhartha tried not to wonder how he looked to the Holy Man.
“Why, yes. I apologize, I didn’t see you. I’m making the pilgrimage to the old Shrine, and I stopped to do a circle around the tree and speak to Vishnu.”
“Of course. Please, don’t let me prevent you.” Siddhartha and the Holy Man struggled to hold eye contact. They searched the tree and grove for a sign, some greater significance.
“…Thanks.” The Holy Man did his prayers encircling the tree as they had been taught so long ago. He ended where he began, looking down at Siddhartha. “What a pleasant surprise this has been, the Gods are full of blessings.” he said.
“Truly. I trust the Monks back at the Old Shrine are doing well then.”
The Holy Man grinned, “Yes, yes. Only last week…” Laughter slipped out between his words. “Last week Acharya was making his morning alms walk and…” He laughed harder. “And he… He… well, you know how Acharya is.”
Siddhartha gave his warmest smile.
Finally, the Holy Man walked on and Siddhartha spoke the all-encompassing Om. As he lost himself in prayer Siddhartha and dedicated a moment of worship to the Holy Man and was sure he was all the better for their meeting. Then he purged all thought of him.
In his chanting Siddhartha heard the voices of the grove and voices beyond. As he inhaled he heard, and saw, and was fed. And when he exhaled there was nothing but stillness. Om. His mouth opening and erupting and emptying and sealing. Om. Om. O-
“Ack- ah- pitooey!” Siddhartha spat what had flown into his mouth. His eyes fluttered open and it was no silly insect but a child. A boy, only a few years old at most. His outstretched finger glistened with Siddhartha’s saliva. The boy’s smile shone. “Well… good day, child.”
“Um.” The boy giggled.
“Where did you come from? Have you lost your family?”
“Um.” The boy giggled.
“Please, return to your mother or-“ the boy reached for Siddhartha’s open mouth. Siddhartha coolly held the boy’s hand in his.
“Um! Um! Um, um, um!” The boy laughed and laughed, trying to wrestle free.
“Cheerful boy, please go back to your family and let me pray. I’m on the verge of-“ Again with the finger.
Siddhartha chuckled out of disbelief. He swiveled his head, searching for a party missing their boy. There was no one to be seen. “Where did you come from?” Siddhartha tangled the boy into his lap. He tickled him gently and the boy laughed even harder.
He released the child. “Please, do run along. There is significance…” Siddhartha dodged the finger this time. There was no use in speaking. He reached for the child but it had moved just out of reach. The boy giggled more. He moved closer and poked Siddhartha’s breast. Siddhartha once again reached and missed. Giggles and giggles. The boy leapt and poked Siddhartha’s forehead. Siddhartha gritted his teeth and lurched towards the boy, to finally stand and leave his place under the pipal. But Siddhartha failed at this; both his feet had fallen asleep. The boy laughed and ran away, “Ummmm…” echoing through the grove.
Siddhartha took a deep breath and let it go. He tried with all his might to extend his legs and follow the boy. The pins and needles were too great. It washed over him, the sensation becoming all. He breathed once more. Siddhartha smiled and it was the smile of a million and one faces.