Selected Sermon/Article
2009-11-20 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Toldos
Beyond Twelve Gates Parshas Toldos November 20, 2009

Beyond Twelve Gates             Parshas Toldos           November 20, 2009


     Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.  We all love to laugh. Humor can also be an effective tool in minimizing conflict.


     Police Officer Adelle Roberts was investigating a routine domestic disturbance call -- a husband-and-wife fight.  As she parked her patrol car in front of the house, a television flew out of a second-story window.  Loud voices argued as she walked to the front door and knocked.  An angry man screamed, "Who is it?"  Roberts knew that if she said 'Police,", it would make things worse.  Instead, she replied "TV repairman."  The man started laughing and opened the door.  A favorable atmosphere had been established for resolving the dispute.


     Appropriate humor can serve as effective 'grease' to smooth the friction that sometimes comes in dealing with others.


Parshas Toldos  Genesis 25:19 -- 28:9


     Isaac and Rebecca pray to G-d for a child. Rebecca finally conceives, and after a difficult pregnancy she gives birth to twins -- Esau and Jacob.  Their personality differences soon grow apparent, as Esau turns to hunting while Jacob is pure and wholesome, spending his time studying Torah.  Returning from a hunting expedition,  Esau finds Jacob cooking a pot of lentil soup. Jacob agrees to give his older brother a portion from the pot of soup in exchange for the spiritual birthright.


   Faced with a horrible famine, Isaac and family settle in G'rar (the land of the Philistines which is within Israel's borders) rather than descend to Egypt as his father Abraham had done years before.  After experiencing incredible financial success, Isaac comes into continual conflict with King Avimelech over the wells which Isaac dug anew. This pattern of 'success and persecution' has repeated itself throughout Jewish history.


   Isaac decides to bless Esau as the firstborn. At Rebecca's insistence, Jacob disguises himself as his older brother and receives the blessing of the firstborn (which rightfully belonged to him). The Torah portion concludes with Jacob fleeing from Esau's wrath for 'stealing' his blessing and escaping to Charan to stay with his uncle, Laban, where he is to find a wife.


Rabbinic Ruminations  


  How honest do you consider yourself?   A school librarian in a Phoenix high school was recently stunned by the delivery of a mysterious package.  The package contained two books -- returned by a former anonymous student -- that were 51 years overdue. 

   The package also contained another surprise;  a money order. The overdue book fees were calculated at two cents a day for the past 51 years and came to a total of $745.   The  sender included a money order for $1,000, just in case the overdue rates had changed.  The librarian said " The funny thing is, I don't think we ever had overdue fees.  We don't have them now and haven't charged any since I've been here."   The librarian also said,  "It makes you feel happy, not because of the money, but because there are people out there that do such nice things."  The sender ended a brief letter with these words, "Sorry these two books are so late." 


    Honesty in matters of money is not simply admirable, but a vital litmus test for the truly pious, observant, ethical Jew.  Non-Jews can (and should) be honest, but the 'People of the Book' should aspire to the most exacting standards of honesty.  Many people associate religiosity with the more ritual observances within Judaism.  While of great importance, anyone considering himself or herself a 'Good Jew' certainly must be a straight shooter when it comes to money and business dealings.


Quote of the Week


If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere -- Frank A. Clark


Joke of the Week


   One day three men were hiking and unexpectedly came across a large raging river.  They needed to get to the other side but had no idea how to do so.  The first man prayed to G-d, saying, "Please G-d, give me the strength to cross the river."  Poof!  G-d gave him big arms and strong legs, and he was able to swim across the river in about two hours, but only after almost drowning a couple of times.


   Seeing this, the second man prayed to G-d, saying, "Please G-d, give me the strength to cross the river."  Poof! G-d gave him a boat and he was able to row across the river in about an hour, but only after almost capsizing a couple of times.


   The third man then prayed to G-d, saying, Please G-d, give me the intelligence to cross the river."  And poof!  G-d turned him into a woman. She looked at the map, hiked upstream two hundred yards, then walked across the bridge.


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