Selected Sermon/Article
2009-09-25 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Ha'Azinu
Beyond Twelve Gates Parshas Ha'Azinu September 25, 2009

Beyond Twelve Gates           Parshas Ha'Azinu                 September 25, 2009


      Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.  The words we choose are important.


     In 1946 psychologist Wendell Johnson discovered that not a single full-blooded Indian living on a reservation stuttered. He noted that perhaps not coincidentally, none of the Indian languages and dialects contain the word 'stutter.'   According to an experienced prison counsellor, over 90% of men and women incarcerated today were repeatedly told by their parents, "One of these days you're going to wind up in jail."  


    Imagine what might have happened if they had been repeatedly told "If you keep studying like that, one of these days you'll get a scholarship to college."  Or, "If you continue to be that thoughtful and courteous you'll have lots of friends."  The words we use with our children and ourselves can certainly make a difference.


Parshas Ha'Azinu    Deuteronomy 31: 1 -- 52


     Ha'Azinu is comprised primarily of Moses' "song" about the horrible tragedies and supreme joy which will make up the Jewish people's future history.  While not a song in the familiar sense, Moses' "song" is a blend of otherwise disparate ideas into a beautiful symphony of thought.  It expresses the idea that everything that G-d does -- past, present and future -- somehow fits into a perfect harmony, although our limited human understanding prevents completely recognizing the wisdom of G-d. 


      Ha'Azinu contains the mitzvah for each Jew to write a Sefer Torah (Torah scroll).  Many suggest that this mitzvah can be fulfilled by the purchase of books containing Torah content.  Does your home contain any books of Torah?  Today there is an abundance of excellent Torah books written in English that are available.  Let me suggest two: The Stone Chumash (5 Books of Moses), and Living Each Week by Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski.  Ha'azinu concludes with G-d's command to Moses to ascend Mount Nebo, where he will view the land of Israel and then pass away. 



Rabbinic Ruminations 



    The beginning of a meaningful Yom Kippur (which begins this coming Sunday night)involves being able to admit our past mistakes. Excusiology -- the inability to admit our guilt -- has been around for a long time, and things haven't changed very much over the past 5,770 years. Let me share with you part of the sermon on this topic that I delivered over Rosh Hashana.


    We usually say that the sin of Adam and Eve was because they disobeyed G-d's instructions not to eat from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.  But on closer analysis, they weren't punished immediately after their colossal mistake.  G-d engaged Adam in conversation, giving him the opportunity to admit what he did.  Adam didn't accept this opportunity.   Instead he said, "the woman who you gave to me - she gave me of the tree and I ate."   Adam avoided responsibility for his sin, shifting it onto Eve.  


  Then G-d turned to Eve, also giving her a chance to repent.  However, she too declined the offer, saying, “the serpent deceived me and I ate.” Only then did G-d punish them for the sin.  It's clear that had they taken responsibility for their actions when G-d confronted them that the punishment would have been far lighter. Who knows how different the course of history might have been? 


      And incredibly, Adam even blamed G-d for his mistake.   He said, 'The woman you gave me caused me to eat.!  Talk about being an Excusiologist! 


(For the full text of my sermon on 'Excusiology', please contact me via email at


Quote of the Week


There is but one morality, as there is but one geometry -- Voltaire


Joke of the Week


Harvey had an important message to deliver to Sheldon, who was in synagogue on Yom Kippur.   Harvey approached an usher at the synagogue entrance and asked if he could quickly speak to Sheldon.   To Harvey's dismay, the usher said, " I'm sorry, sir.  You don't have a ticket. No one is allowed into services on Yom Kippur without a ticket."  Harvey said, "But I only want to go in for a moment to tell my friend an important message."   The usher said, "Sir, I'm truly sorry.  Without a ticket, we can't let anyone in. People pay a lot of money for these tickets."  Harvey pleaded with the usher, promising that he would only remain in the sanctuary for a moment.  Finally, the usher relented, saying, "Well, ok.  I'll let you in for just a moment.  But don't let me catch you praying in there!"



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