Selected Sermon/Article
2009-07-03 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Parshas Chukas-Balak
Beyond Twelve Gates Parshas Chukas -- Balak July 3, 2009

Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates. This weekend America celebrates its independence on the Fourth of July. One youngster attempted to sing 'God Bless America', but it came out like this: "Stand beside her and guide her, through the night, with the light of a bulb!'

This Week's Torah Portion: Chukas -- Balak (Numbers 19:1 -- 25:9)

In the first of this week's two action-packed portions we read of the paradox of the Red Heifer and the deaths of Miriam and Aaron. Perhaps the most prominent feature of Chukas is the tragic episode of Moses hitting the rock at Mei Meriva. Because of this incident G-d didn't allow Moses to enter the land of Israel. What did Moses do wrong?

One classic approach suggests that Moses' sin was in becoming angry (he said to the Jewish people, 'Listen now, you rebels'). Although the best of us can occasionally lose our temper, teachers and parents carry a special responsibility to be good roles for their students and children. Little pitchers have big ears! To a certain extent every Jew is an ambassador for G-d. We might not always be aware of it, but when we're at work, at school, and at play -- some who know that we're Jewish watch our actions carefully.

. In Balak we read about an anti-Semitic sorcerer named Bilaam and his talking donkey. You may remember a talking horse from the 1960s TV show Mr. Ed. ( Rabbi Smason that old?) Because of Bilaam's attempts to curse the Jewish people, G-d gave Bilaam his comeuppance through the stinging rebuke of the donkey's words.

Rabbinic Ruminations

Unless you've been living in a cave the past 6 months you know who Bernard Madoff is, and the nefarious deeds for which he was convicted in a court of law this past week. But do you know who Leonard Abess Jr. is, and what he did?

Many bosses say they value their employees. Some even mean it. And then, there's Leonard Abess Jr. After selling a majority stake in his Miami-based bank, Mr. Abess took $60 million of the proceeds -- $60 million out of his own pocket -- and handed it to his tellers, bookkeepers, clerks, and everyone else on the payroll. All 399 workers on the staff received bonuses, and he even tracked down 72 former employees so they could share in the windfall.

Abess didn't publicize what he did. He didn't even show up at the bank on the day bonus envelopes were distributed. Why did Abess give away such a large sum of money? He said, "''Those people who joined me and stayed with me at the bank with no promise of equity -- I always thought some day I'm going to surprise them,'' he said. ``I sure as heck don't need [the money].''

THAT is the way a Jew should act.

Quote of the Week

The world is a dangerous place not because of those who do harm, but because of those who look at it without doing anything -- Albert Einstein

Joke of the Week

Did you see the recent story in the St. Louis Jewish Light about the theft of egg-enriched dough from a Creve Coeur warehouse?

Unfortunately, the theft happened just before Shabbos, which forced most bakeries and homes to bake their challas with plain white flour. Rabbi Smason was quoted as saying:

" I'm appalled by the rise in white challa crimes. "


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