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2010-05-21 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Naso


Beyond Twelve Gates -  Rabbi Ze'ev Smason

Parshas Naso -  May 21, 2010



Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.  Is it ever really too late to complete unfinished business?   Shizo Kanakuri ran the marathon at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm.  Or, he started the marathon. Before finishing the race, the heat got to him and he stopped. He was so embarrassed at not finishing that he booked early passage back to his home in Japan without telling the Olympic officials. Swedish authorities listed him as missing for years.  In 1962 a journalist caught up with him in Japan and found he was unaware of the trouble he had caused. In 1966, Kanakuri returned to Sweden and finally completed the unfinished marathon at age 75. His time from start to finish in that marathon was 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 8 hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds.  "Better late than never" is, in most cases, a Jewish value.  It's never too late to say "I'm sorry" or "I love you."  It's never too late to decide to become a better person and a better Jew.  It's never too late to complete unfinished business.


Parshas Naso    Numbers 4:21 - 7:89


   Not to be confused with 'Nassau' -- the capital of the Bahamas and a county in New York -- Naso is the name of this week's Torah portion.  Here's some trivia; Naso contains 176 verses.    The longest tractate in the Talmud (Baba Basra) has 176 pages, and the longest chapter in Tenach (the Jewish Bible) is guessed it ....176 verses (Psalm 119).  Coincidental?  Bet you a piece of week-old cheesecake that it's not!  


     We show our love for the Torah on this first Shabbos after receiving the Torah by reading the longest Torah portion -- the 176 verses of Naso.  Does someone in your family have a Bar Mitzvah scheduled for Naso in a year or two?  Tell them not to worry about the length of the Parsha.  Much of Naso is repetitive and relatively easy to read.


     Amongst the topics appearing in Naso is the mitzvah of the 'Sotah'.  When compelling circumstantial evidence suggests an act of marital infidelity may have taken place, the Torah provides a means to clarify the hoped-for innocence of the suspect parties.  Contained in this mitzvah is dissolving G-d's name that was written on a parchment.   We learn from this the supreme importance of shalom bayis -- peace in the home.  If G-d allows His Holy Name to be erased for the sake of peace between husband and wife, certainly each of us should seek shalom bayis with our spouses and other family members.   What can each of us do to increase shalom bayis with those whom we love?


    Parshas Naso also describes the nazir -- an individual who takes a vow to refrain from drinking wine, cutting his hair, and other restrictions.  Remember the story of Samson?   Samson -- who was a nazir -- was the great Jewish judge and hero who 'brought down the house.' 


Rabbinic Ruminations


Three of the most difficult words to say in the English language may be:  I was wrong.  We regularly meet people who can't bring themselves to admit mistakes. On occasion, some of those people may even be -- the author of this column, and its readers!


In the early 1950's a social psychologist and two associates infiltrated a group of people who believed the world would end on December 21.  In a study in the newly identified theory of cognitive dissonance, they wanted to know what would happen to the group when the prophecy failed.   The group's leader, whom the researchers called Marian Keech, promised that the faithful would be picked up by a flying saucer and elevated to safety at midnight on December 20. Many of her followers quit their jobs, gave away their homes, and dispersed their savings, waiting for the end.  Who needs money in outer space?   At midnight, with no sign of a spaceship in the yard, the group felt a little nervous. By 2 a.m., they were getting seriously worried. At 4:45 a.m., Mrs. Keech had a new vision: The world had been spared (she said) because of the impressive faith of her little band.


Ethics of Our Fathers teaches that one of the seven things that characterize a wise person is the ability to acknowledge the truth and admit mistakes.  Ted Turner once said, "I once thought I was wrong -- but I was mistaken."  If we can find the spiritual strength to say "I'm sorry", and "I was wrong", the quality of our lives and of our relationships will improve dramatically.



Quote of the Week


Women's liberation is just a lot of foolishness.  It's the men who are discriminated against.  They can't bear children.  And no one's likely to do anything about that -- Golda Meir



Joke of the Week


Goldie Cohen, an elderly Jewish lady from New York, goes to her travel agent. "I vont to go to India."
"Mrs. Cohen, why India? It's filthy, much hotter than New York, it's full of poor, dirty people. You'll get sick. Can you imagine the hospital, no Jewish doctors? Why torture yourself?"
"I vont to go to India."
The necessary arrangements are made, and off she goes. She arrives in India and, undeterred by the noise, smell and crowds, makes her way to an ashram. There she joins the long line of people waiting for an audience with the guru. After a wait of hours, Goldie eventually reaches the hallowed portals. There she is told firmly that she can only say SEVEN words to the guru.
She is ushered into the inner sanctum where the guru is seated, ready to bestow spiritual blessings upon his eager initiates. Just before she reaches the holy of holiest she is once again reminded:
"Remember, just SEVEN words."
Unlike the other devotees, Goldie does not prostrate at his feet. She stands directly in front of him, crosses her arms over her chest, fixes her gaze on his, and says:
"Sheldon, I'm your mother. Come home...NOW!"

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