Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates. Do you have a passion that
you pursue? Mark Twain once said, "I am opposed to millionaires,
but it would be dangerous to offer me the position."
Perhaps Gary Buslik had Twain's quote in mind when he made a surprising
decision. Buslik, of Chicago,
had previously started an alarm company that grew to $6 million in annual
sales and earned him $500,000 a year. But he wasn't happy.
"My passion was literature, not alarm systems," he said.
So when Buslik turned 50, in 1997, he sold his business in order
to pursue that passion. With a recommendation from a pal who was an assistant
dean, he got into the English Ph.D. program at the University
of Illinois at Chicago. In return for his work as a
TA, the school waived his tuition. Buslik graduated in 2007 and now teaches
there part-time while writing books on the side. He makes just $13,500 a
year, but says, "I've never regretted my decision. I'm content to be
sending Shakespeare lovers into the world."
If G-d came to you and said, "I want you to be happy for
the rest of your life," what would you do? The more passions and
desires one has, the more ways one has of being happy.
Parshas Pinchas Numbers
25:10 - 30:1
In last week's Torah portion we found the Jewish hero Pinchas
saving the day for the Jewish people, by publicly executing the Jewish tribal
head, Zimri, and his Midianite girlfriend, Kazbi. Those two had
desecrated the Name of G-d and His Torah by having relations in plain view of
Moses and the entire Jewish leadership. (I suppose you could say it was
the very first 'Kazbi Show'.) This week, Pinchas is rewarded for
sanctifying the Name of G-d and is granted the blessing of peace
and priesthood (kahuna). Pinchas' zealous response saves
the Jewish people from a plague which had broken out in the camp.
Five righteous daughters of Tzelofchad file a claim with Moses:
in the absence of a brother, they request their deceased father's share in
the Land of Israel. Moses asks G-d for a ruling.
The Almighty responds that the claim of these five women who so dearly love
the Land of Israel is, indeed, just.
Moses is told that he will ascend a mountain to view the Land
that the Jewish people will soon inherit, although he will not be allowed
to enter. Moses asks G-d to appoint a successor. Do you
know who is chosen? Joshua, Moses' dedicated assistant and
student. The Torah portion concludes with a lengthy
description of the special offerings to be brought on the various
festivals. These sections are also read from the Torah throughout
the year on the appropriate holidays.
Tim Scott had a run-in with a 'Bad News Bear' this past
Sunday. But can a bear be bad? Scott, 56, an avid hiker, was
attacked by a black bear in a remote area of Kentucky. In the first recorded bear
attack on a person in Kentucky, the 150 pound bear grabbed Scott by the leg
and threw him into the woods. Then, it sank its teeth into his thigh and
shook him. Scott said he tried to think of ways to fight the bear off,
reaching into his pocket and finding his 3-inch pocket knife. He was
preparing to stab the bear in the eye, not sure what the animal's reaction
might be, when a group of hikers who heard the commotion arrived. One
of them took his day pack and threw it at the bear, knocking the animal
sideways, and prompting it to release Scott. The hiker was released
from the hospital Monday morning after receiving 50-60 stitches.
Scott said, "This was a private incident between me and a
bear. I was chomped on by a bear, and he was a bad bear, but that
doesn't speak of all bears."
Can an animal be 'bad'? Unlike human beings, animals
do not have free will. The Torah teaches that the capacity
to recognize and choose between good and evil is a feature
unique to humans. The classic understanding of man as
created "In the image of G-d" means that he alone can identify
right and wrong and make moral or immoral choices. An animal may be dangerous.
A bear may be 'bad' in the sense that it should be avoided at all
costs. But only the descendants of Adam and Eve -- created in the image
of G-d -- can recognize good and evil and become like G-d through the proper
exercise of the gift of free will.
Quote of the Week
The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a
good ending and to have the two as close together as possible -- George Burns
Joke of the Week
Morris' life was in
shambles -- his wife left him, taking all the money, kids, the
family car, and even the dog. He didn't know what to
do. So, he went to his Rabbi, and said, "Rabbi, my life is in
ruins. My wife left me, took all the money,
kids, car, and even Kreplach, our poor little dog. PLEASE help
me." The wise Rabbi replied, "open up the Bible to any page
and point to a sentence on that page. Whatever it says, you
do." So, in desperation, Morris went home, took out his
dusty Bible from the attic and opened up to a page and pointed. A few
months later, Morris, now wearing a $2000 Italian suit, and with a new
wife decked out with a full length mink coat, walked into the Rabbi's study
and said, "Rabbi, thanks for the advice. You changed my
life!" The Rabbi asked, "what did I do that helped so
much?" Morris answered, "Well, remember when you told me
a couple of months ago to take my Bible, open up to any page, and
point?" "Yes," replied the Rabbi, "what did you
point to?" Morris replied, "Rabbi, I pointed to the
words 'Chapter 11.' "