Selected Sermon/Article
2010-06-18 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Chukas


Beyond Twelve Gates  -  Rabbi Ze'ev Smason
Parshas Chukas  --  June 18, 2010



Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates. When Richard Chaifetz was a freshman at St. Louis University in 1971, he was summoned to the bursar's office and told he was two months behind on his tuition and unless he paid, he would have to leave school.  Chaifetz told the school he had no way to pay, and was told to talk to Father Paul Reinart, the president of the university.   Chaifetz said, "I assured him that not only would I pay my tuition, but if he allowed me to stay since I was a good student and my education meant so much to me, I would pay back the university in some fashion because I knew I would be successful in life.  He looked at me and after a few minutes, he said, 'Rich, I believe in you, take as long as you want to pay your tuition.  I know you'll make good on it.' "


Thirty six years later, Chaifetz paid the school back, and then some.  St. Louis University's on-campus arena is known as the Chaifetz Arena, named after successful Chicago businessman Dr. Richard Chaifetz, who made a $12 million naming rights gift to the Arena. 


It's been said that the two most important words in our language are 'thank you.'  Everyone of us, no matter how difficult our position in life, has much to be thankful for. If we could each cultivate an 'attitude of gratitude', the world would be a much better place.



Parshas Chukas    Numbers 19:1 - 22:1


This week's action-packed portion begins with the paradox of the Red Heifer, a mitzvah we are asked to perform even though we are unable to understand its purpose and reason.  The narrative then jumps to the death of the prophetess Miriam.  The people are then left without water, since the miraculous well which had accompanied them in the desert existed only in her merit.  G-d commands Moses and Aaron to speak to a particular rock so it will miraculously produce water; Moses strikes it with his staff instead, and G-d tells the two leaders they will not enter the Promised Land.  What did Moses do wrong?
One classic approach suggests that Moses' sin was that he became angry (he said to the Jewish people, 'Listen now, you rebels').  Although the best of us can occasionally lose our temper, teachers and parents carry a special responsibility to be good role models for their students and children.  Little pitchers have big ears!   Later in the portion, the king of Edom refuses to let the Jewish people pass through his borders, causing them to take a longer route. Aaron dies and is buried on Mount Hor.  The Children of Israel sing a song of praise about the well of Miriam. The portion concludes with the battles and victories over Sichon the king of Emori and Og the king of Bashan.  
Rabbinic Ruminations
Irish writer Oscar Wilde once said, "Now it seems to me that love of some kind is the only possible explanation of the extraordinary amount of suffering that there is in the world."  Does Jewish tradition support Wilde's hypothesis?
Several years ago Darryn Sleet, a St. Louis high school football player, was leveled by a fierce, clean hit by an opposing defender after catching a pass. Darryn, who somehow held onto the ball, was knocked unconscious for about four minutes, then rushed to the hospital by ambulance.  What good could possibly have resulted from such a trauma?   A CAT scan and an MRI detected a cyst on the young man's brain that was unrelated to the football incident,   He had surgery to remove the cyst that neither he nor his doctors were previously aware of.  In an incredible twist, Valerie Sleet expressed gratitude to the unidentified player who clobbered her son. "I would really like to meet (that) boy and thank him.  He saved my son's life. The doctors said Darryn was probably born with that cyst.  We never knew it was there.  He had no symptoms.  The doctors said it would have continued to grow and caused a stroke or a seizure or something like that someday.   And they never would have found it if Darryn had not been in that football game.  It's just G-d's blessing.  G-d's looking out for him - in a hard way, but G-d's looking out for him." 
Moses sought to understand why bad things happen to good people.  He was told by

G-d,  " will see My back, but My face may not be seen." (Exodus 33:23)     A retrospective view -- namely, G-d's 'back' -- may reveal the improbable, the unlikely, or perhaps the unimaginable.  Judaism teaches:  Kol mah d'avid Rachmana, l'tav avid -- everything that G-d does, He does for the good. 
Quote of the Week
All children are artists.  The problem is how to remain artists once they grow up.  -- Pablo Picasso
Joke of the Week
Albert Einstein died and went on to his Heavenly reward.  He walked up to the first person he met and introduced himself.  "Well, it's nice to meet you," responded the gentleman.  "By the way, I have an IQ of 170."  "Great!" answered Einstein.  "Then we can spend our time discussing quantum physics."  Einstein then introduced himself to the next person he saw.  "So nice to meet you," the woman said.  "My IQ is 155." "Delighted to meet you," Einstein said.   "We can talk about such things as mathematical theorems."  Later Einstein came upon another man.  "Hello sir.  My name is Albert Einstein.  Pleased to make your acquaintance."  The man shook his hand heartily.  "Pleased to meet you, too," the man said, "but my IQ is just 85."  "Ah," said Einstein, "so how are things in Washington?"



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