Selected Sermon/Article
2009-10-09 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Shemini Atzeres/ Simchas Torah
Beyond Twelve Gates Shemini Atzeres/ Simchas Torah October 9, 2009

Beyond Twelve Gates     Shemini Atzeres/ Simchas Torah       October 9, 2009



    Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.   An Oriental fable introduces us to a mouse who,

like all mice, was afraid of cats.  A local wizard offered his help, and turned the mouse into a cat. 

The cat, however, was afraid of dogs. So the wizard did his thing and turned the cat into a dog.

Afraid of tigers, the dog was soon turned into a tiger. The wizard discovered the tiger was afraid

of big game hunters and exclaimed in disgust, "You're hopeless! What you need is a change

of heart.  And that I cannot give you."


     The holidays of Sukkos, Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah are times of

great happiness; however, happiness isn't a possession we search for.  Rather, it's a

blessing present in everything we experience.  'Things' can't make us happy.  Counting the

blessings we do have is the key to true happiness. 


Torah Reading for Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah


     Shemini Atzeres is the two-day holiday immediately following the seventh day

of Sukkos. It begins on Shabbos. Simchas Torah is celebrated on Sunday, the second

day of Shemini Atzeres. The Torah reading for the first day is Deuteronomy 14:22 -- 16:17.


     Shemini Atzeres is a holiday in its own right.  'Shemini Atzeres' literally means 'Stop (on)

the Eighth Day'.   Benjamin Franklin once said, 'fish and visitors smell in three days'.  The Almighty,

however, has a different perspective!   G-d, who has had us as 'visitors' for the seven days of

Sukkos, asks us to stay with Him for an eighth day.  Seeing our loved ones leave is difficult;

so too, G-d loves His children and desires that we spend one more day with Him in festive celebration.


    Simchas Torah  means "Rejoicing in the Torah." This holiday marks the completion of the

annual cycle of the weekly Torah Readings.  On it we read the last Torah portion, V'zos Ha'Bracha  

Deuteronomy 33:1  --  34: 12 ).  We then proceed immediately to the first chapter of Genesis,

reminding us that the Torah is a circle which never ends.  The completion of the Torah readings

is a time of great celebration.  There are processions around the synagogue carrying Torah scrolls,

with plenty of high-spirited singing and dancing. 



Rabbinic Ruminations    


     This past week Israeli scientist Ada Yonath won the 2009Nobel Prixe in chemistry. 

Dr. Yonath, 70, is the fourth woman to to win the Nobel chemistry prize and the first since 1964. 


     The global Islamic population is approximately one and a half billion, or 20% of the world

population.   As of 2008, 8 Muslims (including Yassar Arafat) were awarded a Nobel Prize.


    The Jewish population is approximately 14 million, or .02% of the world population. As of

2008, 180 Jews were awarded a Nobel Prize.    Anti-Semites have accused us of many things

during the past 4,000 years.  One thing our enemies have never said about us is that we're not smart!



Quote of the Week


Hatred is the coward's revenge for being intimidated -- George Bernard Shaw



Joke of the Week


     Earlier this week I had a near death experience. It all started when I went horseback riding.

Everything was going fine, but then the horse started bouncing out of control. My cries

of "Whoa!" and pulling back on the reins went unheeded. I tried with all my might to hang on,

but was thrown off. Just when things couldn't possibly get worse, my foot got caught in the

stirrup causing me to fall head first to the ground. Unable to free myself, my head continued

to bounce harder, as the horse didn't stop or even slow down.
Just as I was giving up hope and losing consciousness .... the Walmart manager came

and unplugged it


Hope I didn't worry you -- I was just horsing around.



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