Selected Sermon/Article
2009-09-04 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Ki Savo
Beyond Twelve Gates Parshas Ki Savo September 4, 2009

Beyond Twelve Gates            Parshas Ki Savo              September 4, 2009


     Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.  Who needs purpose and commitment in their lives?  Apparently, we do.   


     In 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?


Parshas Ki 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.


Rabbinic Ruminations


     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.


    A more 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 mercy.


     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!'


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