Selected Sermon/Article
2009-12-25 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Vayigash
Beyond Twelve Gates Parshas Vayigash December 25, 2009

Beyond Twelve Gates     Parshas Vayigash          December 25, 2009



Rabbinic Ruminations


Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.  What type of things do you usually pray for?


The parable is told of a prince who was exiled by his father the king. Having no manual skills, he became a shepherd. While the other shepherds built huts to protect them from the sun, the prince, not being handy with tools, suffered in the intense heat.


Years later, the king visited the distant land, and peasants threw petitions into the royal coach.  The prince, too, wrote a petition that he be given a little hut to protect him from the sun.  When the king recognized his son's handwriting, he began to cry.  "How my son has forgotten who he is!  He doesn't ask to be allowed to return to the palace.  His only aspiration is for greater comfort as a shepherd."


Many of us pray only for our immediate personal needs, like the shepherd for his hut.  It's worthwhile to consider expanding our prayers; to pray for the needs of others, to pray for the peace of Israel, and to pray for a better world.


Parshas Vayigash   Genesis 44:18 -- 47:27


Judah makes an impassioned plea to the powerful Egyptian ruler (Joseph still in disguise) for Benjamin's life, claiming that Jacob would surely die from sorrow if he lost Benjamin.  Judah offers to remain in Egypt as a slave in place of his younger brother.  Joseph, unable to restrain himself any longer, reveals his identity to his stunned brothers and forgives them for selling him into slavery so many years before. 


Joseph then sends his brothers back to the land of Israel, laden with gifts, to bring Jacob and their families down to Egypt where they will live in the province of Goshen. Before Jacob leaves home, G-d appears to him in a 'vision of the night', reassuring him that He will be with them and that they will eventually return to the land of Israel as a great nation. After 22 years of separation, Jacob is reunited with his beloved son Joseph, and they are brought to meet Pharaoh.  The portion concludes by describing how Joseph uses his vast power to amass nearly all of the wealth of Egypt for Pharaoh's treasury.


Rabbinic Ruminations


The parents who carried out the 'Balloon Boy Hoax' were sentenced to jail this week.  Richard and Myumi Heene were also given strict probation conditions that forbid them from earning any money from the spectacle for four years.  Richard Heene was sentenced to 90 days in jail, while his wife Myumi was sentenced to 20 days in jail. It is also expected that the Heenes will be forced to pay the government restitution of approximately $45,000 for its search and rescue mission.   What possessed the Heenes to do such a thing?


The Talmud (Pirkei Avos/Ethics of the Fathers) teaches us that 'jealousy, lust and a desire for honor and fame take a person out of this world.'   Every person, be they Jewish or non-Jewish, has certain desires that if left unchecked can cause tremendous damage.  Jealousy can be positive when used to spur us to emulate the good character and positive achievements of others.  The desires for physical pleasures and honor can also be potentially channeled in positive directions.  Lacking an unwavering moral compass, however, can lead to very serious mistakes.  We thank G-d for the Torah -- His guidelines and instructions for proper ethical and moral conduct.



Quote of the Week


If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else -- Yogi Berra



Joke of the Week


The rabbi came home Kol Nidrei night, and his wife asked him why he seemed a bit downcast. "Schwartz, the gabbai, told me my sermon wasn't very good tonight.  He said it was boring, uninspired, way too long, and sounded as if I took it straight from the Internet."  "Schwartz? said the rebbitzen, "Forget about him.  He doesn't know anything.  He just repeats what everyone else says."


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