September 4, 2009
Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates. Who needs purpose and commitment in
their lives? Apparently, we do.
her book, Pathfinders, Gail Sheehy reports her study to
determine what characterizes people who have a strong sense of satisfaction
about themselves and about their lives. One thing she discovered was
that in every group she surveyed, the most satisfied people were also
likely to be the most religious. Another of her findings showed
the strong role commitment plays in shaping lives. The greater
well-being a person reflected, the more likely he or she was to have an
outside purpose. Sheehy's observations focus our attention on a
central theme of the High Holiday season; What are we living for, and how
devoted are we to that purpose?
Savo Deuteronomy 26:1 -- 29:8
The parsha begins by
describing the annual mitzvah for the farmers of Israel
to bring their bikurim, or first
fruits, to the Kohen
in the Temple.
The donor was then to recite a prayer of thanksgiving, recalling how G-d had
delivered his ancestors from Egypt
and brought the new generation into a land flowing with milk and honey.
Moses then teaches two
special mitzvos which the Jewish people are to peform upon enterning the land of Israel. Firstly, they are to
inscribe the entire Torah on twelve large stones. Secondly, the
twelve tribes are to ratify their acceptance of the Torah in the following
manner; six tribes were to stand on Mt. Gerizim, representing the blessings,
while the remaining six tribes were to stand on Mt. Eival, signifying the
curses The Levites were to stand in the valley
between, reciting blessings and curses which will apply respectively to those
who observe and defy the Torah.
The parsha concludes with a
recounting of the wonderful blessings G-d will bestow upon the Jewish people
for remaining faithful, and a chilling prophecy of what might happen if
the Jewish people don't follow the Torah.
This past week American were stunned by the
Jaycee Lee Dugard story. Phillip Garrido was charged with
kidnapping Jaycee Lee when she was 11 and holding her in his backyard
for 18 years. The victim was just 14 when she gave birth to the first
of two girls she had by Garrido. Incredibly, Jaycee Lee was
completely hidden from the public eye until the now-29 year old woman and her
daughters were discovered. Garrido and his wife have been charged with
multiple counts of kidnapping, rape, and false imprisonment.
What can we learn from this shocking and incredible story?
In the prayers
of Rosh Hashana we state that iniquity
shall shut its mouth, wickedness shall vanish like smoke, when You (G-d) will
abolish the rule of tyranny from the earth. Evil exists in various forms
in the world today. We must constantly be vigilant against it, and
recognize that there evil regimes and evil people exist.
uplifting lesson from the Jaycee Lee Dugard story is: we can never give
up hope. Who would have expected -- other than a heartbroken but
longing mother and father -- that a daughter who disappeared for 18 years
would be found, and found alive? Judaism teaches even if a sword
rests upon your neck, don't give up hope of G-d's
Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are times of hope.
Quote of the Week
The mediocre teacher tells;
the good teacher explains; the superior teacher demonstrates; the great
teacher inspires -- William Arthur Ward
Joke of the Week
Jason, an American
tourist, was visiting Israel
for the first time. Shortly after arriving Jason wanted to re-set
his watch, so he approached a native Israeli on the street and asked him
what time it was. Moshe (the Israeli) said,
"I'm sorry, I don't own a watch or a clock.' Jason said,
'then how do you know what time it is?' Moshe said, "I look at
the clock on a bank or in a store window.' Intrigued, Jason said,
'well, that can work during the day, when you're out on the street. But late at night and at home, how can you tell the
time if you don't have a watch or clock?' Moshe said, 'That's easy -- I
open my window and blow a shofar.' Puzzled, Jason said,
'Blow a shofar? How does THAT help tell the time?' Moshe
said, "It's simple; when I blow the shofar, a neighbor leans his head
out of his window and yells, 'Hey, stop blowing that shofar -- it's 2 in the
morning' 'And that,' Moshe said, 'is how I know what time it is!'