Selected Sermon/Article
2009-12-05 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parchat Vayishlach
Beyond Twelve Gates -- Parshas Vayishlach -- Rabbi Ze'ev Smason -- December 4, 2009

Beyond Twelve Gates  -- Parshas Vayishlach  -- Rabbi Ze'ev Smason -- December 4, 2009


Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.  What are you aiming at?   A college professor prepared a test for his soon-to-be graduating seniors.  Students were instructed to choose questions from only one of three categories.  The first category of questions was the hardest and worth fifty points.  The second, which was easier, was worth forty points. The third, the simplest, was worth thirty points. 


    Upon completion of the test, students who had chosen the hardest questions - regardless of their results -  were given As. The student who chose the forty-point questions received Bs.  Those who settled for the easiest questions were given Cs.  The students were frustrated with the grading of the papers and asked the professor what he was looking for.  The professor leaned over the podium, smiled and explained, "I wasn't testing your book knowledge.  I was testing your aim."


    The Talmud speaks critically of one who "goes for 7 days without dreaming."  One explanation of this curious statement is that the 'dreaming' refers to our aspirations and goals. What are you aiming at?


Parshas Vayishlach  Genesis 32:4 -- 36:43


     Jacob and family return from the house of Laban to the land of Israel, only to find Esau heading toward them with 400 men, ready for battle.  After preparing his family for war and praying to G-d for help, Jacob attempts to appease his brother by sending him a gift of many animals.  After his family crosses the river to await their meeting with Esau, Jacob is left alone for an all-night 'confrontation' with an angel disguised as a man.  Although Jacob is victorious, he is left limping from a hip-dislocation.  Rejoining his family, Jacob encounters Esau who accepts him with an apparent new-found brotherly love.  Jacob and Esau part ways, in peace.


     Another crisis arises when Jacob's daughter Dinah is abducted and raped by Shechem, the prince of a town with the same name. Two of Jacob's sons, outraged at the humiliation caused to their sister, trick the town's residents into circumcising themselves (ouch!) on the condition that they would then be allowed to intermarry with Jacob's family. Simeon and Levi (the two brothers) then decimate the entire city and save Dinah.   Later in the parsha, G-d blesses Jacob and gives him the additional name, Israel. Soon after, Rachel dies while giving birth to Benjamin, Jacob's twelfth son.   Finally, Jacob returns home and is reunited with his father Isaac.  The Torah portion concludes with a lengthy genealogy of Esau's family.


Rabbinic Ruminations


   What would you have done?

      Virginia Saenz could hear the desperation in the voice of the telephone message. It was 5 a.m. on the day before Thanksgiving, and the caller, Lucy Crutchfield, was trying to tell her daughter that she'd send money for groceries -- but she'd have to miss a mortgage payment and possibly lose her house to foreclosure to do it. But Crutchfield had dialed the wrong number. Instead of getting her daughter, she got Saenz, a real estate agent.

     Saenz did the only thing she could think of -- she called Crutchfield back and said not to worry. Crutchfield would pay the mortgage, and Saenz would handle the groceries.

She said the act of giving made "the day special for me. I helped somebody.  I think it's what anybody would have done."

     The Torah describes the Jewish people as "kind, merciful and modest."  If you received by mistake Lucy Crutchfield's phone call, what would you have done?


Quote of the Week


When someone does something good, applaud!  You will make two people happy -- Samuel Goldwyn


Joke of the Week


A woman goes to the post office to buy stamps for her Chanukah cards.  She says to the clerk, "May I have 50 Chanukah stamps?"   The clerk says, "What denomination?"  The woman replies, "Oh my. Has it come to this?  Give me 6 Orthodox, 12 Conservative and 32 Reform."



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