Selected Sermon/Article
2009-12-18 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Mikeitz/Chanukah
Beyond Twelve Gates Parshas Mikeitz/Chanukah December 18, 2009

Beyond Twelve Gates     Parshas Mikeitz/Chanukah   December 18, 2009


Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates. One of the Chassidic masters used to say that one can learn something from anyone or anything.  On Chanukah, when it was customary in some places to play checkers as well as dreidel, the Rabbi remarked to some checker players, "What have you learned from this game?"


When they shrugged their shoulders, the Rabbi said, "This game can teach you some rules of living: 1) You may only move forward, never backward; 2) you can only move forward one step at a time, and you may not outdistance yourself; and 3) sometimes it is expedient to give up something in order to gain more (i.e. surrender one checker to set up a double jump)."    The rules of checkers can also be guidelines for spiritual growth. (Rabbi Dr. A Twerski, 'Living Each Day')


Parshas Mikeitz   Genesis 41:1 -- 44:17


Pharaoh has a two-part dream about seven scrawny cows devouring seven robust cows, followed by seven thin stalks of grain swallowing seven healthy, good ones.  When his advisers are unable to adequately interpret the dream, Pharaoh summons Joseph, who had been in prison for a total of twelve years.   Ascribing his power of interpretation solely to G-d, Joseph tells Pharaoh that Egypt will first experience seven years of abundant crops, and then will be ravaged by a devastating famine.  Pharaoh appoints Joseph to be the viceroy of Egypt, making him the second most powerful man in the land.  Joseph's wife Asnat gives birth to two sons, Menashe and Efraim, and the years of plenty and famine unfold just as Joseph had predicted. 


With the famine also devastating the land of Canaan (Israel), Joseph's brothers descend to Egypt to purchase food.  When they don't recognize their royal brother, Joseph sets in motion a plan to determine if the brothers have fully repented for their sin of selling him almost twenty-two years before.   Joseph acts detached, accusing them of being spies, and holds Simeon as hostage. Joseph then allows the rest of the brothers to go with food to their father on the condition that they return with their youngest brother Benjamin.  With great reluctance, Jacob agrees to this condition.  Mikeitz concludes with the looming threat that Benjamin will be made a slave to the Egyptian ruler.


Rabbinic Ruminations


It's not coincidental that Chanukah occurs during these days with the fewest hours of sunlight.  What lesson can be learned from this?


  The 5th night of Chanukah is unique, being the only day of the holiday that can't fall on Shabbos.  For that reason that there's a custom to give Chanukah gelt (money) on that night to the children, since handling money on Shabbos is prohibited (my children argue that it's a custom to give gelt on ALL 8 nights. Go figure).   It is also said that the 5th night of Chanukah has a special opportunity attached to it; the light of the Chanukah candles burn more brightly in a spiritual sense, since the 5th night is the 'darkest' (since it can't ever fall on Shabbos).  Thus, there exists on the 5th night of Chanukah a particular opportunity to dispel the darkness, filling the world with light.


   So too, throughout the entirety of Chanukah.  The absence of light during these December days represents an absence of  spirituality. A small amount of light can dispel a vast amount of darkness; our Chanukah lights and the true meaning of this wonderful holiday can infuse our lives with richness, meaning and spirituality.  Happy Chanukah!


Quote of the Week


The easiest kind of relationship for me is with ten thousand people. The hardest is with one -- Joan Baez


Joke of the Week


While on vacation in Rome, Joe noticed a marble column outside St. Peter's with a golden telephone on it. As a young priest passed by, Joe asked who the telephone was for.  The priest said, " it's a direct line to heaven, and if you'd like to call, the cost will be $1000.00."

Joe continued his tour and arrived in Israel.  He decided to attend services at a local synagogue.  When he walked in the door he noticed a blue and white telephone. Underneath it there was a sign stating: "DIRECT LINE TO HEAVEN: 25 cents."

"Rabbi," Joe said, "In Italy near a cathedral I visited, I saw a telephone that was also a direct line to heaven. But there, the price was a thousand dollars.  Why is it that this one is only 25 cents?"

The rabbi smiled and said,"You're in Israel now. It's a local call." (thanks to Dr. Susan Feigenbaum for the joke)


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