Selected Sermon/Article
2010-05-28 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Beha'aloscha


Beyond Twelva Beha'aloscha-  Rabbi Ze'ev Smason -- May 28, 2010



This edition of Beyond Twelve Gates sponsored in honor of the 25th wedding anniversary of Bob and Joni Kaiser.  Mazel Tov! 



Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates. Albert Einstein once said, "If you want to have a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things." From the age of 25, John Rheinberger has had a fascinating goal; to visit every country in the world.   Rheinberger, an Oklahoma lawyer who is now 61, has a passport that boast stamps from 192 countries including Iraq, Afghanistan and North Korea.  By his count, only three remain - Libya, Cuba and Somalia.  The attorney, who is single, sees travel as an investment. "My return may not be in dollars," Rheinberger said, "but it will be in experiences of life." He estimates that his travels will consume more than a year and a half of his life and about $200,000. He has already spent $192,000. He figures anyone starting today would need about $400,000. Rheinberger said, " There's a point in life where you think about your own future and where you are in life. When you are old and gray and you are looking back, you want to at least have something."


Ethics of Our Fathers teaches, "The day is short, the work is abundant ... it is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, yet you are not free to desist from it."  Happiness in life is tied to having goals.  When we're old and gray, what is it that wehope to have achieved?



Parshas Beha'aloscha   Numbers 8:1 - 12:16



Beha'aloscha (Hebrew for "when you step up") is thematically diverse, beginning with the daily lighting of the golden menorah in the Mishkan. The Levites are initiated into the Tabernacle service.   The Torah then describes the celebration of Passover in the second year in the desert, complete with the bringing of the Korban Pesach (Passover offering). Some men could not bring the offering due to ritual impurity, and were thus commanded to celebrate Pesach Sheni, a 'make-up Passover' a month later. Lesson: second chances are available.  Additionally, the standard procedure by which the Jewish people would break camp to travel in the desert is described.


Soon after leaving Mt. Sinai, the people begin to kvetch (to complain and grumble incessantly, as in the title of the classic novel 'Kvetcher in the Rye').  Spurred by the mixed multitude of insincere converts who joined the Jewish people upon leaving Egypt, the complaining is directed toward the manna, their daily miraculous portion of heavenly bread. G-d sends a massive flock of quail which the people gather to eat; those who had complained about the lack of food overstuff themselves and die during this supernatural event.   The portion concludes with Miriam speaking loshon hara (defamatory words) to Aaron about their brother Moses.  She is punished by G-d with tzaraas (a skin condition indicating a spiritual deficiency) and is quarantined outside the camp for seven days. 



Rabbinic Ruminations


The term Renaissance Man is used to describe a person who is well educated or who excels in a number of subjects or fields.  The idea developed in Renaissance Italy from the notion that a man can 'do all things if he will.'  It considers man empowered, limitless in his capacities for development, and led to the notion that people should embrace all knowledge and develop their capacities as fully as possible.  Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, was considered a Renaissance man par excellence.  He was a philosopherauthorlawyerarchitectmusiciannaturalistbotanistinventor, engineer, statesman, diplomat, and political theorist.  At a dinner honoring Nobel laureates, John F. Kennedy famously said,  "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together in the White House-with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."


Is to become a Renaissance man a Jewish goal?


In this week's Torah portion, the golden menorah (candelabra) of seven lamps is described.  Curiously, the wicks of the six outer lamps faced toward the seventh center lamp.  The six outer lamps represent the six essential fields of scholarship and of knowledge; medicine, physics, mathematics, art, psychology and sociology.  Our world is filled with flames for us to understand and use. However, unless this information is focused and directed toward the center lamp -- symbolizing G-d, Torah and spirituality -- then the wisdom of the world is relatively meaningless.  We should indeed strive to become a Renaissance man (or woman), but commit to use the knowledge we aquire in service of the higher purpose of becoming ethical human beings, and to become better Jews.



Quote of the Week


After 5000 years of recorded human history, you wonder, what part of 2,000,000 sunrises doesn't a pessimist understand?  --  Robert Brault (American poet)


Joke of the Week


A Texas rancher was visiting a farmer in Israel. The proud Israeli showed him around. "Here is where I grow tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash. Over there I built a play set for my kids, next to the doghouse," the farmer said.

The land was tiny, and the Texan was surprised by its small size. "Is this all your land?" he asked.

"Yes," the Israeli said proudly. "This is all mine!"

"You mean this is it? This is all of it?" the Texan said incredulously.

"Yes, yes, this is really all mine!"

"Well, son," said the Texan, "back home I'd get in my car before the sun'd come up and I'd drive and drive and drive, and when the sun set, why, I'd only be halfway across my land."


Oh, yes," replied the Israeli farmer wistfully, "I used to have a car like that."


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