Selected Sermon/Article
2009-07-17 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Matos - Masei
Beyond Twelve Gates Parshas Matos - Masei July 17, 2009

Beyond Twelve Gates                Parshas Matos - Masei          July 17, 2009


     Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.  Ohio State University published a list a few years ago stating the top 50 reasons why people are fired from their jobs. The first 15 reasons did not involve skill, or knowledge, or ability. These top reasons all listed some sort of personal attitude as the reason for the job loss. In our personal and spiritual lives, an attitude of enthusiasm (Simchas Ha'Chaim -- the joy of living) can help us to achieve great things.   Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said, 'If you aren't fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.'   If we can give ourselves one gift today, let it be the gift of enthusiasm.



This Week's Torah Portion:    Matos -- Masei  (Numbers 30:2 - 36:13)


     In the first of this week's two action-packed portions, Moses teaches the rules and restrictions governing oaths and vows.  Promises are serious business.  When we say that we plan to do something  -- even something as simple as,  'I'll call you later' --  we're bound by our words.   The tribes of Gad and Reuben petition Moses to remain on the eastern side of the Jordan river because that land is particularly suitable as grazing land for their cattle.  Moses, not wanting to 'steer' Gad and Reuben wrong, grants their request on the condition that they first help the remainder of the Jewish people to conquer what would later become known as 'the Land of Israel.'


   Masei  (a word that means 'journeys') begins with a listing of the 42 encampments of the Jewish people's 40 year journey from  Egypt into the Land of Israel (No, 'Camp Grenada' is not on the list).   The boundaries of the Land of Israel are defined , and the command is given to establish cities of refuge for unintentional murderers (see 'Rabbinic Ruminations' below).  The Book of Numbers concludes with MaseiNext week -- on to Deuteronomy!


Rabbinic Ruminations


'Puuhonua O Honaunau' is a National Park in Hawaii, formerly known as the 'City of Refuge Park.'  Why?  In ancient times Hawaiians would chase down a certain type of offender and put him to death -- unless he reached a puuhonua, or place of refuge.  Sound familiar?  It gets better.  Once in the place of refuge, the offender could be absolved of his sin by a Hawaiian priest -- known as a 'Kahuna.'  The word 'Kahuna' is strikingly similar to the Hebrew word 'Kohen/Cohen' that refers to a Jewish male of the priestly class.


I don't mean to suggest that Hawaiians are a Lost Tribe of Israel. It's a long way from Jerusalem to Honolulu!  However, various Jewish practices can be found in unusual places.  Additionally, remnants of the Hebrew language can be found in almost every language today.  Hebrew is truly Loshon HaKodesh, the Holy Language.



Quote of the Week


A well paid slave is a slave, nevertheless -- Curt Flood



Joke of the Week


What happens when a fly falls into a coffee cup?

The Frenchman - takes out the fly, and drinks the coffee.

The Chinese - eats the fly and throws away the coffee.

The Israeli - sells the coffee to the Frenchman, the fly to the Chinese,
buys himself a new cup of coffee and uses the extra money to invent a
device that prevents flies from falling into coffee.


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