Selected Sermon/Article
2009-11-06 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Vayeira
Beyond Twelve Gates Parshas Vayeira November 6, 2009

Beyond Twelve Gates      Parshas Vayeira             November 6, 2009


     Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.  Do you ever have a feeling that you're being watched?


    A recent news item stated that the city government of Petach Tikva (a Tel Aviv suburb) became the latest municipality to implement a registry of dog DNA.  This registry isn't to reunite Fido with its owner; rather, it's designed to encourage owners to pick up after their pets. Abandoned droppings will be analyzed and those dogs' owners punished.


   This brings to mind a teaching from the Talmud (Ethics of the Fathers 2:1): Reflect on three things and you will never come to sin: Know what is above you --a seeing eye, a hearing ear, and a book in which all your deeds are recorded. 


   G-d's 'seeing eye' differs from that of the Doggie DNA Patrol;  the attention He pays to us is to catch us doing something right -- and a constant reminder that He cares about us and loves us.



Parshas Vayeira   Genesis 18:1 -- 21:24


     The parsha begins with Abraham's incredible display of chesed (kindness) to three angels who appear as men. This, despite his extreme discomfort from his recent bris milah (circumcision).    The angels declare that Sarah will give birth to her first child at the age of 90 (Abraham himself would be 100).  Later, Abraham pleads to G-d on behalf of the cities of Sodom and Gemorrah.  However, the cities are soon destroyed, but not before the angels save Abraham's nephew Lot and his family from destruction.


   Sarah is abducted by Avimelech, the king of Gerar, who did not realize she was married. G-d responds by striking him with a plague which prevents him from touching her.  Sarah conceives and gives birth to Isaac, and Abraham makes a huge celebration. Sarah sees Yishmael (Abraham's son from Hagar) as a menace to her own son's spiritual well-being and asks Abraham to expel Yishmael and Hagar.  The Torah portion concludes with the akeidah, Abraham's tenth and final test, in which he shows his willingness to comply with G-d's command to bring his beloved son Isaac as a sacrifice.


Rabbinic Ruminations


Have you read a good Torah book lately?


  At 92 years of age, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes was hospitalized.  His friend, President Roosevelt, stopped in to visit him and was surprised to see Justice Holmes reading a Greek Primer.  "What are you doing, Oliver?" asked the president.  "Reading," answered Holmes.  "That much I can see," said the president, "but why a Greek Primer?"  The lifelong learner Holmes answered, "Why, Mr. President, to improve my mind."


   Walt Disney once said, "There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates' loot on Treasure Island...and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life." 


   Learning Torah is about much more than improving your mind and enjoying life.  While there's no doubt that regularly reading and studying Torah will improve your emotional and intellectual life,  there also exists vast spiritual benefits to one who immerses himself or herself in the wisdom of the Torah.   Today there exists an abundance of excellent Torah books in the English language.  Biographies. Talmudic tomes.  Books on ethics and character development.  "How to" books on becoming a more knowledgable and observant Jew.  Some of my favorite Torah books have been written by Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski.   Consider reading a good Torah book -- today!


Quote of the Week


I find your lack of faith disturbing. -- Darth Vader


Joke of the Week


On Yom Kippur, Mr. Shapiro, one of the synagogue's wealthiest congregants prostrates himself before G-d. "Dear G-d, You are so mighty and I am but a piece of dust in the vast desert of your countenance. I am nothing."

Mr. Weinberg, another wealthy synagogue member, won't be outdone. "My Lord, you are omnipotent and I am just a speck on the face of the sun in comparison to your greatness. I am nothing."

Finally, Mr Fishbein, a poor but pious man, gazes to heaven and proclaims, "Oh, G-d, I am your lowliest servant; but a drop of mud under your feet. I am nothing."

Shapiro, gestures at Fishbein and whispers to Weinberg, "Hah! Look who thinks he's nothing!"


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