Selected Sermon/Article
2009-09-11 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Nitzavim
Beyond Twelve Gates Parshas Nitzavim - Vayelech September 11, 2009

Beyond Twelve Gates           Parshas Nitzavim - Vayelech      September 11, 2009


     Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.  There's a lot of talk in personal growth circles about "taking charge."  You  often hear others (and perhaps yourself) saying such things as, "I'm going to take charge of that!"  "Why aren't you taking charge of this?" "I'm taking charge of my life!"   Taking charge is great, but many people misunderstand what it is, exactly, they can take charge of.


    Someone once said that the only thing we can truly take charge of is the space within our skin. We can take charge of our thoughts, not thinking about things we don't want to think about.  Our minds can be positive and directed.  We can, to a degree, take charge of our body.  We can work toward being healthy, energetic, exuberant, and fully alive. And we can take charge of our emotions.  We can feel joy, happiness, enthusiasm and love.


    Rosh Hashana is almost here.  It's time to take charge of our lives.


Parshas Nitzavim - Vayelech      Deuteronomy 29:9 - 31:30


  Nitzavim begins with  Moses gathering every member of the Jewish people for the final time. He initiates them into a Covenant with G-d as the Almighty's 'Chosen People'.  This Covenant applied not only to those present on that day, but to all future Jewish generations.  A question for your consideration;  how could someone not present be bound to a commitment made by their ancestors?  What is the binding force today that obligates all Jews to keep a Torah accepted over 3,000 years ago?


   Moses tells the people that although eventually they will sin, in time they will repent and return to the Torah, and G-d will usher in the messianic era when we all return to the land of Israel.  Furthermore, he assures them that the commandments are neither distant nor inaccessible ('it is not in heaven').  This means that a committed Jewish life is well within everyone's reach.


   Vayelech opens with Moses walking through the Jewish camp on the final day of his life to say goodbye to his beloved people.  He teaches them the mitzvah of Hakel, the once-in -seven - years gathering of the entire nation to hear the king read certain passages from the Torah.  G-d commands that  special Torah, written by Moses, be placed by the Levites at the side of the Holy Ark to bear witness against Israel if they were to ever deviate from its teachings


Rabbinic Ruminations


    The hottest topic on the American political scene is that of  'Health Care.'  G-d, not being either a Democrat nor a Republican, shares a thought through the Talmud (Ethics of the Fathers) that I believe is relevant to the discussion:


There are 4 attributes found among people:  He who says, 'What's mine is mine and what's yours is yours' is the average type, though some say this is a Sodom-type person; he who says: "What is mine is yours, and what is yours is mine is ignorant; he who says: "What is mine is yours, and what is yours is yours" is godly;  he who says: "What is yours is mine, and what is mine is mine" is wicked.


   Analysis and application of the above source to the current Health Care debate would be an interesting and important endeavor.  Your thoughts?


Quote of the Week


A person can succeed at almost anything for which they have unlimited enthusiasm -- Charles M. Schwab



Joke of the Week


Yankel approached the rabbi for a solution to a difficult problem. "Rabbi', Yankel said, 'this year the St. Louis Cardinals made it to the World Series, and the first game is on the night of Kol Nidrei.  What can I do?"   The rabbi thought for a moment and said, 'Well, Yankel, I hesitate to offer this solution.  However -- do you have a VCR?"  Upon hearing the rabbi's question, Yankel jumped up and down with excitement. "Rabbi, I didn't know you could use a VCR to record Kol Nidrei!"


A 'Re-cycled' Announcement


Rabbi-Ride-Around and Picnic this coming Sunday, September 13, at 12:30 pm at Forest Park (Pavilion # 5, Skinker/Clayton entrance). Join us for the picnic (yummy, inexpensive food), and cheer on Rabbi Smason as he attempts to cycle 50 miles around the park.  Care to support NHBZ's outreach and educational programs, and send a message to Rabbi Smason that 'You can do it!'?  Email us your pledge-per-mile.  Any donation under $1000 per mile will be gratefully accepted!


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