Va'eschanan July 31, 2009
Welcome to Beyond
Welcome to Beyond Twelve
Gates. I trust that each of you had a meaningful Tisha B'Av -- and to those who fasted,
an easy fast. I also hope you enjoy the remaining leisurely days
of summer before the month of Elul and the High Holidays are upon us.
Tisha B'Av is a
challenging day -- but then again, a challenge is just another rung on the
ladder of success. Everyone knows that you can't get to the top of
the ladder if you never step on the bottom rungs. Here's a list
of excuses people might have for not climbing a ladder. You can also read
these as reasons why more people don't climb the ladder of success.
1. I'm so clumsy I
2. The ladder doesn't
look very safe
3. I'm afraid of heights
4. There's no one to hold
the ladder for me while I climb
5. Everyone else is using
the ladder right now, so there's no room for me
6. The roof doesn't
really need fixing anyway
This Week's Torah
Portion: Va'eschanan (Deuteronomy 3:23 - 7:11)
Moses continues his final speech to the Children of Israel (the
rabbis always talk about the 'Children of Israel' -- where were all
the adults?). He tells them how he entreated G-d to allow him to
enter the land of Israel,
but his request was denied. Moses was allowed, however, to see the
Land from the peak of Mount
Moses appeals to the people to keep the Torah and its
commandments.. In this way, they would be recognized by other peoples
as a great nation. Moses repeats the Ten Commandments (as
opposed to the 'Ten Suggestions', given by Moses' cousin Shmeryl),
the foundation of G-d's covenant with Israel.
Did you ever wonder where the 'Shema' comes from? It's in this
week's Torah portion. It expresses our belief that G-d is one and
states our commitment to love and serve Him. The Shema exhorts us to
transmit Torah to the next generation, and its laws should be remembered by
a 'sign' upon ones hand and forehead (the Tefillin) and written on the
doorposts of ones home (Mezuzah).
Finally, Moses encourages the people to trust in G-d and remain faithful to
the Torah, and to beware the pitfalls of prosperity and success.
How would you describe the difference between 'integrity' and
'honesty'? Someone once suggested that 'integrity'
is telling ourselves the truth. 'Honesty' is telling the
truth to other people. Accepting this distinction, it means
that the genuinely honest person can't simply be honest as a
'policy' (as Shakespeare said), but that honesty must flow from an inner
conviction of what is true and right.
subjects of integrity and honesty come to mind in light of the most recent
monetary scandal in the news. Who amongst us didn't cringe at the
sight of rabbis being led away in handcuffs? Milken. Abramoff.
Agriprocessors. Madoff. Now, the alleged money laundering
scheme in New Jersey.
most of our history, the word 'Jew' has been synonymous with morality and
ethical behavior. The nations of the world expect Jews to live to a
higher standard of morality -- and I believe such an expectation
is justified. If our mission as a 'Light Unto the Nations' and carrying
G-d's name ('Israel' contains the name of G-d within it) doesn't result in
honest behavior, what is, ultimately, the point of our religious
It's time to
get back to the basics; not even 'honesty', but first, a focus on personal
Quote of the Week
The greatest way to live
with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be -- Socrates
Joke of the Week
When young David was
asked by his father to say the evening prayer, he realized he didn't
have his head covered...so he asked his little brother
Josh to rest a hand on his head until prayers were over.
Josh grew impatient after a few minutes and removed his hand.
The father said, "Josh, this is important...put your hand back
on his head!" , to which Josh exclaimed, "What, am I my