Selected Sermon/Article
2009-09-18 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Rosh Hashana 5770
Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates

Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.  This is the year's last edition of BTG -- as

Rosh Hashana begins the new year of 5770.   


    In the short time that BTG has been offered, it has been successful beyond all expectations.  I've been pleased to share a weekly message not only with members of my own congregation (Nusach Hari Bnai Zion in St. Louis), but to see BTG extend to the broader St. Louis Jewish community and beyond via websites and email.  Our regular readership includes Jews of all denominational affiliations and educational backgrounds.  I'm also pleased that a number of non-Jewish friends have become weekly readers of BTG. Thank you for being a part of BTG.



Torah Reading for Rosh Hashana


The two days of Rosh Hashana fall out on Shabbos, September 19 and Sunday September 20.  The weekly cycle of Torah readings is interrupted for a special  Rosh Hashana Torah reading.  On Shabbos the Torah reading is from Genesis 21:1 -- 21:34.  On Sunday the Torah reading is from Genesis 22:1 -- 22:24.


The theme of the Shabbos Torah reading is that G-d remembered Sarah at the age of 90. She  bore a son named Isaac to her 100 year old husband Abraham. Our tradition teaches that Sarah conceived on Rosh Hashana.  Not only do we recall Sarah and Abraham's great merit, but we should be inspired to repent and pray just as they did.


The theme of the Sunday Torah reading is the account of the Akeidah, the Binding of Isaac. Both Abraham and Isaac demonstrated their willingness to make any sacrifice to comply with G-d's will.  Our tradition teaches that the Akeida took place on Rosh Hashana.  The shofar of Rosh Hashana (this year, blown only on Sunday) is customarily made of a ram's horn to recall the merit of the Akeida because a ram was substituted for Isaac on the altar.


Rabbinic Ruminations


     I'd like to close the year 5769 with a look at one of the most important mitzvos (commandments) in the entire TorahV'ahavta l'rayecha k'mocha -- Love your friend as yourself.  A curiosity arises in considering how to observe this mitzvah. We can understand a command to not eat certain foods, to observe the Sabbath, and to place a mezuzah on our doorpost.  However, how can we be commanded to love another person?  How can feeling an emotion be mandated? Isn't love something that either happens, or doesn't?


   Andrew Carnegie was once the wealthiest man in America.  A fabulously successful steel manufacturer, Carnegie at one time employed as many as 43 millionaires.  Conservatively speaking, a million dollars in his day  would be equivalent to 25 million dollars today.  A reporter once asked Carnegie, "How did you develop these men to become so valuable to you that you have paid them this much money?"


    Carnegie replied that men are developed the same way that gold is mined.  When gold is mined, several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold; but one doesn't go into the mine looking for dirt -- one goes in looking for gold.


    This is exactly the way we can develop feelings of love toward others.   Don't look for the flaws, warts and blemishes.  Look for the gold, not the dirt;  the good, not the bad.  The more good qualities we look for in others, the more good qualities we are going to find.  And when we associate a person with their good qualities and virtues ....feelings of fondness and love will follow.


Quote of the Week


There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root -- Henry David Thoreau


Joke of the Week


A small town had two churches, Presbyterian and Methodist, and a Synagogue. All three had a serious problem with squirrels in their building. Each had it's own way to deal with the problem.


The Presbyterians decided that it was predestined that squirrels be in the church and that they would just have to live with them.
The Methodists decided they should deal with the squirrels lovingly in the style of Charles Wesley. They humanely trapped them and released them in a park at the edge of town. Within 3 days, they were all back in the church.
The Jews simply voted the squirrels in as members. Now they only see them at Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur


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