Selected Sermon/Article
2009-06-11 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
From Eretz Kodsheinu
Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG).

I'm writing to you this week from Israel. I'm here on an 8 day visit to Eretz Kadshaynu -- Our Land of Sanctity and Uniqueness. This week I'd like to share with you a few thoughts about Israel.

One of my goals of the trip is to visit the 4 Holy Cities of Israel. Do you know what they are, and why these cities in particular are in this special grouping?

The 4 Holy Cities are; Jerusalem (Yerushalayim), Tiberias (Teverya), Safed (Tzefas) and Hebron (Chevron). Our tradition teaches that these four cities correspond to the four elements with which the Almighty created the universe. Those elements are earth, wind, (ruach, or spirit) fire and water. Earth, Wind, Fire and Water -- what a great name for a rock band! Hebron corresponds to 'earth', being the city in which the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), Matriarchs (Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah) and Adam and Eve are buried. Safed corresponds to 'wind', being the city of the great Jewish kabbalists and mystics -- including, of course, the Ari'zl. Tiberias corresponds to water, given that it sits at the foot of Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). Finally, Jerusalem corresponds to fire, since that the fire of the altar burned in the Holy Temple when sacrifices were offered.

Are there places where G-d hears our prayers better than others? It's certainly true that wherever we pray, the Almighty can and does listen. However, there are certain places where He 'listens more closely.' How can we understand such a concept?

It once happened (wink wink) that the Chief Rabbi of Israel was visiting the Pope in the Vatican. Upon noticing a red phone on the Pope's desk, the Rabbi asked, 'What is that phone for?' The Pope said, 'It's a very special phone. It's a 'hot line to G-d. If you'd like to try, it's only $25 per call' (apparently, the dollar was stronger than the Euro when this story took place). The Rabbi took the Pope up on the offer, and sure enough, the Rabbi was able to talk to G-d. One month later the Pope made a reciprocal visit to Jerusalem, and noticed a blue and white phone on the Chief Rabbi's desk. In response to the Pope's inquiry about the phone, the Rabbi said that it was a 'hot line to G-d. If you'd like to use it, it will cost you 10 cents.' Astonished, the Pope said, 'Only ten cents to talk to the Creator of the Universe? How can that be?'

With a smile, the Rabbi said, 'From Israel it's a local call!

I've had many moving experiences and feelings here on my visit to Israel. At each of those times I've tried to 'capture the moment' by talking to G-d and asking on behalf of my family, my shul and for each of you that you be blessed with all the good things.

My favorite experience thus far has been a visit to the mikveh of the Ari. I did more than 'visit', of course. The water was coldddddd-- but to immerse in the same mikveh that the Ari HaKodesh once used was inspiring and meaningful beyond description. When you were last in Israel, what was your favorite experience? For those of you who haven't yet been to Israel, what would you most like to see or do? Please share your experiences and thoughts with me. And unless you prefer otherwise, I'll share some of them with our readers in next week's BTG.

Quote of the Week

Those who walk 4 amos (approx. 6 feet) in the land of Israel are guaranteed a share in the world to come

This week's Torah portion is Behalasocha, from the book of Numbers. Next week I hope to resume our regular format.

Good Shabbos!

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