(See the end of our column for a special anniversary
Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates. Is your glass half full or
half empty? It's been said that "We don't see things as they
are; we see them as we are." I'd like to introduce you to a
man who has had a remarkable ability to see himself clearly for 115 years;
meet Mr. David Pur.
Pur was born in 1895 in what was then Persia and today is Iran. He became an adviser to the Shah,
who admired his mastery of languages, including Persian, Hebrew, Arabic,
Aramaic and French. The Pur family made Aliyah to Israel
in 1948. Today David Pur has trouble seeing, but as one who has
repeated the prayers for more than a century, he knows them by heart, and
continues to learn Torah every day in the nursing home to where he
moved just three months ago. An envoy from the Guinness Book of
World Records is coming to Israel to formalize
115-year-old David Pur's title as the oldest living man on earth. Three of
his nine children are still alive, as are 18 grandchildren and 56
The old man is known for his smiles and for laughing and joking
with the various members of his large family, who visit him daily. Pur's
friends describe him as a man with an incredibly positive
outlook. His glass isn't simply half full -- but it's overflowing.
"The main thing is not to lose your optimism," Pur said.
"I, who buried the woman of my life 50 years ago, and six of my children
- I understand that we must not let bitterness take hold of us."
"A pessimist," Winston Churchill
once said, "sees the difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees
the opportunity in every difficulty." From where can we
develop this spirit of optimism in the face of our many difficulties?
"Hope in G-d, strengthen yourself and He will give you courage, and hope
in G-d." (Psalm 27)
Parshas Bamidbar Numbers 1:1 - 4:20
This week we begin reading Sefer Bamidbar -- known in
English as 'The Book
of Numbers'. Bamidbar ('in
the desert') begins with G-d telling Moses to take a census of all men
over the age of 20. If you like names and numbers, you'll love
this week's parasha. The count reveals just over 600,000,
excluding the Leviim (Levites) who weren't included in the
census. We also find described the way in which
Bnai Yisrael camped around the Mishkan (Tabernacle),
and the order in which they travelled during the 40 years in the
desert. Bnai Yisrael were arranged in four sections around the Mishkan; east,
south, west and north.
The Leviim are singled out for special responsibilities. A
formal transfer is made between the first-born and the Leviim, whereby
the Leviim take over the role the first-born would have served.
The sons of Levi are divided into three main families; Gershon, Kehas
and Merari. Each is given a special task in transporting the Mishkan.
The major festival of Shevous begins on Tuesday evening May 18,
and concludes Thursday evening, May 20. Many of you may
remember Cecil B. Demille's film 'The Ten Commandments',
starring Charlton Heston. Good
film; however -- the book was better than the movie.
On Wednesday morning the Torah reading (Exodus 19:1 -
20:23) contains the narrative of giving of the Torah
and the Aseres HaDibros -- inaccurately translated as 'The Ten
Commandments.' On the second day of Shevous the Torah reading
(Deut.14:22 - 16:17) contains a brief description of the Shalosh Regalim
Shevous and Succos.
An argument can be made that Shevous is THE most important
holiday of the Jewish year. After all, without the Torah, what is
Judaism? The Torah was given to all of the Jewish people. Unlike
Demille's version where only Charlton ....I mean, Moses heard G-d speak, the
uniqueness of Matan Torah (revelation) is that every man, woman and
child heard G-d speak at Sinai (the mountain, not the hospital). This
fact alone distinguishes Judaism from all other religions and faiths.
When the Torah was given, it was to the entirety of the Jewish people.
We can learn to be better people by studying
animals. Ethics of Our
Fathers teaches "Be bold as a leopard, light as an
eagle, swift as a deer, and strong as a lion, to carry out the will of your Father in Heaven." What
can we learn from the bumblebee?
In the 1930s a leading zoologist concluded it should be
impossible for a bumblebee to fly. Fixed-wing studies in conventional wind tunnels have not been able
to show how enough lift can be generated to elevate the huge mass
of a bumble bee (compared to its wing size). Fortunately, no bumblebees have
ever studied aerodynamics! So naively, they keep on doing
what they should logically be incapable of doing - flying.
On occasion we meet people who are like bumblebees. They
buzz around, doing the seemingly impossible without giving it a second thought. There seems to be no
explanation for all they are able to accomplish: they just do what
needs to be done, and along the way, they pollinate the lives of
others, helping them to grow. There is much to learn from the
Quote of the Week
If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even
less -- Gen. Eric Shinseki,
former U.S. Army chief of staff
Joke of the Week
A rabbi told his congregation, "Next week I plan to
give a sermon about the sin of lying. To help you understand my speech,
I'd like all of you to read Exodus chapter 41."
The following Shabbat,
as he prepared to deliver his sermon, the rabbi asked for a show of hands. He
wanted to know how many had read Exodus 41. Every hand went up.
The rabbi smiled and said, "Exodus has only 40 chapters. I will now
proceed with my sermon about lying."
This week we celebrate the one year anniversary of Beyond
Twelve Gates. Mazel Tov! To our 'old-time'
subscribers, we thank you for having been with us during this year of
learning and growth. To our new (and relatively new) readers, we
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