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2009-05-22 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
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Welcome to the initial edition of 'Beyond Twelve Gates'. Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) aspires to become a weekly (I hope!) email/newsletter/ communique from me (Rabbi Ze'ev Smason) to members of Nusach Hari Bnai Zion Synagogue and other interested individuals. Plans are to share thoughts on the weekly Torah portion, Divrei Torah, Nusach News That Jews Can Use, Rabbinical Ruminations, a question or two to pique your interest, and a joke of the week. BTG is a work in progress! Let's give it a try, and see how things evolve (Is 'evolve' a kosher word? Interesting topic for discussion one of these days).

Weekly Torah Portion

This week we begin reading Sefer Bamidbar -- known in English as 'The Book of Numbers'. The weekly Torah portion (54 portions in the entire Torah; one portion is called a 'parsha' or 'sedra') has the same name as this fourth book of the Chumash: Bamidbar.

Bamidbar ('in the desert') begins with with Hashem telling Moshe to take a census of all men over the age of 20. If you like names and numbers, you'll love this week's parasha. The count reveals just over 600,000, excluding the Leviim (Levites) who weren't included in the census. We also find described the way in which Bnai Yisrael camped around the Mishkan (Tabernacle), and the order in which they travelled during the 40 years in the desert. Bnai Yisrael were arranged in four sections around the Mishkan; east, south, west and north.

The Leviim are singled out for special responsibilities. A formal transfer is made between the first-born and the Leviim, whereby the Leviim take over the role the first-born would have served.

The sons of Levi are divided into three main families; Gershon, Kehas and Merari. Each is given a special task in transporting the Mishkan.

A Thought From the Torah Portion

We're told many names, numbers in Parashat Bamidbar that at first glance seem obscure at best, irrelevant at worst. What lesson for living can be extracted from the census in Parashat Bamidbar?

We live in a time when many people feel that they don't matter, and that they don't 'count.' At times we find ourselves surrounded by a mass of humanity. I attended a college that had 30,000 students, and later transferred to a much smaller college my junior year. I was overwhelmed by the size of the college, and the classes. The relatively anonymous nature of technology and Internet communication makes it much harder to connect with people and to feel that each of us 'really matter.' To teach Bnai Yisrael that every person 'counted' , all in the census were counted personally by Moses, himself! Can you imagine being able to interact face to face with Moses -- and perhaps give him a 'Shalom aleichem, Rebbe' when he smiled at you?

Let's not forget that each and every one of us really counts.

Rabbinical Rumination

No doubt you heard the news of the thwarted terror attack in which a segment of the Jewish community in Riverdale, NY was singled out.

The uninitiated believe that the essence of prayer is to ask for the things we need. It's certainly true that we should ask Hashem to fill our needs. An argument can can offered, however, that saying thank you is a more central function of prayer.

Let us use this opportunity to thank Hashem for protecting all who were in harm's way. How can we not respond?

Nusach News that Jews Can Use

This coming Shabbos is a program you don't want to miss. Our popular Synaplex Shabbat takes place this Shabbos, May 23. Inspiring davening (8:30 am - 11:00 am). A selection of fascinating lectures (Rabbi Shlomo Soroka: Classical Insights Into Shevous, 1st Sgt. Chiyya Smason: Moral Dilemmas and Religious Life in the Israeli Army Rabbi Ze'ev Smason: Judaism & Astrology). Good luck choosing! Programs for kids and teens during the lectures. Everyone enjoys a scrumptous lunch, at noon. Invite a friend!

Shevous Dinner and Learning: This coming Thursday night is the first night of Shevous. Come to NHBZ for a fantastic gourmet dinner that is VERY reasonably priced ($8 members, $10 not-yet-members). Early bird learning: Rebbitzen Chani Smason: Women and the Book of Ruth Menachem Szus: Korbonos/ Sacrifices -- their relevance now, and in the future Rabbi Ze'ev Smason: Must we listen to a Bas Kol/Heavenly Voice?

PLEASE let your friends know about all the good stuff we're doing at NHBZ. We love to have guests visit

Question of the Week

What is the signficance of the name of this new project , Beyond Twelve Gates (I'll bet you were wondering about that, weren't you?)? Hint: Think 'the 12 tribes' Extra Hint: See intro. to Tehillas Hashem Siddur. Best answer gets an extra piece of gefilte fish at next week's kiddush.

Joke of the Week

A man comes to the rabbi, asking 'Rabbi, can you make me into a Cohen?' Rabbi: "I'm sorry, Sir...I can't do that." Man: "Rabbi, please! I really want to be a Cohen. I'll make a big donation to your shul if you make me a Cohen!" Rabbi "Why do you want to be a Cohen so badly?" Man: 'Well, Rabbi father was a Cohen, my grandfather was a I want to be a Cohen!"

Well, folks. Hopefully there's something here you can use in preparartion for Shabbos. Drop me a line via email ( or for feedback, answers, questions, or just to say hello.

Good Shabbos Rabbi Smason