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2009-06-05 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Beyond Twelve Gates

Welcome to our weekly newsletter 'Beyond Twelve Gates.' I trust that you found the holiday of Shevous spiritually nourishing. Eat too much cheesecake? You're not alone. Like all Jewish holidays, the residual effect and afterglow of Shevous -- like calories -- remains with us for some time to come. While we might have 'gone through the holiday', a question to consider is 'did the holiday go through us?'

This Week's Torah Portion: Naso (Bamidbar - Numbers 4:21 -- 7:89)

Not to be confused with 'Nassau' -- the capital of the Bahamas and a county in New York -- Naso is the name of this week's Torah portion. Here's some trivia; Naso contains 176 verses. The longest tractate in the Talmud (Baba Basra) has 176 pages, and the longest chapter in Tenach (the Jewish Bible) is guessed it ....176 verses (Psalm 119). Coincidental? Bet you a piece of week-old cheesecake that it's not!

We show our love for the Torah on this first Shabbos after receiving the Torah by reading the longest Torah portion -- the 176 verses of Naso. Does someone in your family have a Bar Mitzvah scheduled for Naso in a year or two? Tell them not to worry about the length of the parsha. Much of Naso is repetitive and relatively easy to read.

Amongst the topics appearing in Naso is the mitzvah of the 'Sotah'. When compelling circumstantial evidence suggests an act of marital infidelity may have taken place, the Torah provides a means to clarify the hoped-for innocence of the suspect parties. Contained in this mitzvah is dissolving G-d's name that was written on a parchment. We learn from this the supreme importance of Shalom Bayis -- peace in the home. If G-d allows His Holy Name to be erased for the sake of peace between husband and wife, certainly each of us should seek Shalom Bayis with our spouses and other family members.

Shalom Bayis can involve many challenges. In the words of that great philosopher George Burns, "Happiness is a close, warm, loving family that lives out of town." What can each of us do to increase Shalom Bayis with those whom we love?

Parshas Naso also describes the Nazir -- an individual who takes a vow to refrain from drinking wine, cutting his hair, and other restrictions. Remember the story of Samson? Samson -- who was a Nazir -- was the great Jewish judge and hero who 'brought down the house.'

Rabbinic Ruminations

My all time favorite movie is Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life." The inspirational and compelling plot relates how George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) was able to see what the life of his town, friends and family would have been like if he had never been born. Clarence -- George's guardian angel -- successfully shows Bailey how his very presence on earth so deeply enriched the lives of so many.

St. Louis and the St. Louis Jewish community would look dramatically different if it had not been blessed with the presence of I.E. Millstone. Mr. Millstone was an exceptionally charitable, gracious man, and a true 'class act.' All segments of the Jewish community mourn his passing. Perhaps at this very moment in olam ha'bah (heaven) the Almighty is showing I.E. Millstone the deep and meaningful impact he had in his lifetime.

Question of the Week

The well known beginning to many brochos (blessings) we recite is: 'Boruch atah Hashem' ...... often translated as 'Blessed are You, G-d......' What is the real meaning of this phrase? Are we to understand that we give G-d a blessing?

Last Week's Question

Our question was, 'How many commandments are there in the Aseres HaDibros -- most accurately translated as 'The Ten Statements' or 'Ten Sayings' ?

Congratulations to former St. Louisan Chaya Gent for her insightful answer. Chaya wrote:

In Hashem's first presentation to B'Nai Yisroel, in the ten Utterances, there are between 13 and 15 Mitzvot enumerated (depending on how we reckon the opening statement, whether we view it as a Mitzvah or as a statement of fact).

I couldn't have said it any better myself!

Joke of the Week

Mrs. Ginsberg: "Thank you for a lovely party, Mrs. Leibowitz. I want you to know your brownies were so tasty I ate four!"

Mrs. Leibowitz: "Five, but who was counting?"


Thanks for reading 'Beyond Twelve Gates'. Comments, questions, requests to be added to our email list or better jokes can be sent to or Care to know more about Nusach Hari Bnai Zion Congregation? Check us out at If you enjoyed Beyond Twelve Gates, please share with a friend. Thanks to Alan Haber for his assistance in distributing BTG.