Selected Sermon/Article
2010-01-01 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parchat Vayechi
Beyond Twelve Gates Parshas Vayechi January 1, 2010

Beyond Twelve Gates    Parshas Vayechi     January 1, 2010


Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates. If you had two and a half days of free time, what would you do?


Displaying extremely 'cool' nerves, an Israeli man is trying to break the record for the amount of time spent in a block of ice. Hezi Dayan will attempt to spend 65 hours inside an eight-ton block of ice.  Dayan is embedded inside a block of ice set up on a special podium in Tel Aviv's central Rabin Square.  What is Dayan's motivation for this highly unusual venture?   "My aim," Dayan said Monday, "is that at two or three in the morning, people on their way home from a night out will say, "come, let's go to the square and see if that looney is in his ice." (Thought: should one use a 'Polaroid' camera to photograph the man-in-ice?)


How we spend our free time often depends on our goals in life. Some follow a path of least resistance, engaging in various forms of physical pleasure as ends unto themselves. Some seek fame, glory and power.  Others seek more spiritually oriented activities that lead to personal growth and helping others.  If you had 65 hours of time that was completely unrestricted, how would you use it?  If you care to share, let me know.


Parshas Vayechi   Genesis 47:28 -- 50:26


The final portion of the first book of the Torah describes Jacob's actions immediately preceding his death in Egypt.  Jacob makes Joseph swear to bury him in the land of Israel, and then gives Joseph's two sons, Menashe and Ephraim, a special blessing.  Notwithstanding Joseph's protest, Jacob insists on giving the younger Ephraim the right-hand position of primacy during the blessing (is this the origin of 'my right-hand man'?).


Jacob then proceeds to give each of his other sons their individual blessings in accordance with their own unique character traits and life purpose. Jacob passes away at the age of 147.  He then is brought by his sons and accompanied by a great procession of Egyptian royalty to the land of Israel where he is buried in M'aras HaMachpelah (The Tomb of the Patriarchs). Upon their return to Egypt, Joseph's brothers fear that he will finally take revenge now that their father is dead.  However, Joseph reassures them that he bears no hard feelings.  The portion concludes with Joseph's death and the Jewish people's promise to carry his bones with them to Israel when they are finally redeemed.


Rabbinic Ruminations


What is the value of a smile? Before Jacob died, he blessed his son Judah with the words "His eyes shall be red with wine; and his teeth white with milk." (Genesis 49:12).  The Talmud states that the phrase 'his teeth white with milk' can be understood to mean 'when one shows his teeth (in a smile) to his fellow man, it's better than giving him milk to drink.'  Just as milk provides essential nourishment, a smile enters the recipient's mind and body to nourish their spirit and soul.  We underestimate the power and importance of a smile. A smile isn't simply a 'nice thing'; it's an essential ingredient in the healthy continuity of the world.


 Based upon a teaching in Ethics of Our Fathers, here's  a three-step program for properly greeting another human being.


1) Your face has to express sever, which means sevara, or thought. When you focus your face on another person, he has to be able to see that you are thinking about him. You notice him. You appreciate that this total stranger, no matter what his color, ethnicity, culture or religion, was created in the image of G-d just as you were, and is therefore worthy and important enough for you to concentrate on him, even for a split second's time.

2) You have to turn your face to that person, not your ear. Look directly into the face of the person as you greet him and give him the full attention he deserves.

3) It is not enough merely to show your face when you greet another person, it should be yafos - a pleasant, beautiful face. Give him your best smile. Show him that you are happy to see him.


Quote of the Week


Pain is temporary.  Quitting lasts forever.   -- Lance Armstrong


Joke of the Week


The synagogue realized that it had never received a donation from its wealthiest member.  So the rabbi and the president paid Goldberg a visit in his expensive home.


The president opened the meeting by saying, "Our research shows that even though your annual income is over a million dollars, you've never given a donation to our synagogue beyond payment of annual dues.  Wouldn't you like to give something back to your shul?"

Goldberg thinks for a minute and says, "First, did your research also show you that my mother is dying after a long, painful illness and she has huge medical bills that are far beyond her ability to pay?  And secondly, does your research show that my brother, a disabled veteran, is blind and confined to a wheelchair and is unable to support his wife and six children.  And thirdly did your research also show you that my sister's husband died in a dreadful car accident, leaving her penniless with a mortgage and three children?"

The humiliated president stammered "I'm sorry, I had no idea..."

At that, Goldberg said  "So, if I don't give money to them, what makes you think I would ever give any to you?"


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