Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates. How far would you go to do
a mitzvah? We can learn the definition of 'dedication' from
Maurice Meyer. A radio station in Pretoria
had a promotion offering a ticket to the World Cup final for the person
who did something to really impress the station's judges. While some
did things like get tattoos of support, Maurice Meyer, a 32-year-old South
African businessman did what seemed enough to win: He swam across a
crocodile and hippo-infested river.
The river, the aptly named Crocodile River,
is known for being crowded with crocodiles. Meyer and his wife (!!)
swam across the river while his brother stood by with a gun in case of
trouble. The swim across took just 3 minutes, but the swim back, in
which they were fighting the current, took about 15
minutes. Finally, Meyer and his wife were pulled in on a
rope. But they made it. No crocs were seen during the swim, and
no shots were fired. Word has it that Meyer is a finalist for the
ticket, with the winner to be announced on Thursday.
Thomas Edison said, "Opportunity
is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like
work." The only thing that ever sat its way to
success was a hen. Few mitzvos
require a swim across a crocodile-infested river. But with hard work
and dedication, success in the observance of mitzvos
-- and in life -- is yours for the taking.
Parshas Matos -- Masei
Numbers 30:2 - 36:13
In the first of this week's two action-packed portions, Moses
teaches the rules and restrictions governing oaths and
vows. Promises are serious business. When we say that we
plan to do something -- even something as simple as, 'I'll call you
later' -- we're bound by our
words. In anticipation of the upcoming entrance into the land of Israel,
the tribes of Gad and Reuben petition Moses to remain on the eastern side of
the Jordan River because that land is
particularly suitable for grazing their cattle. Moses, not wanting
to 'steer' Gad and Reuben wrong, grants their request on the condition that
they first help the rest of the nation in conquering the entire land of Israel before returning to settle
Masei (a word
that means 'journeys') begins with a listing of the 42 encampments of the
Jewish people's 40 year journey from the Exodus until the crossing of
the Jordan River into the Land of Israel (No, 'Camp Grenada' is not
on the list). The boundaries of the Land of Israel
are defined. Since the Levites would not be receiving a regular
portion of the land, 48 cities are set aside for them. Cities of
refuge are established; one who unintentionally murders can flee
there. So ends the book of Numbers, the fourth of the Books
of the Torah. Next week -- on to Deuteronomy!
When American John Isner finally won the
longest match in tennis history, he collapsed on the Wimbledon
grass and then summoned one last burst of energy, springing to his feet to
applaud along with the crowd. The first-round match, by far the
longest in the sport's history in terms of games or time, took 11 hours, 5
minutes over three days. The match lasted so long it was suspended
because of darkness - two nights in a row. Ultimately, Isner defeated Frenchman Nicolas Mahut 6-4,
3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68.
The longest tennis match in history provides us with a lesson in
persistence for things that are truly important.
Many years ago Rabbi Eizel wished
to acquire a superior Torah scholar as a husband for his
daughter. He went to a leading yeshiva (Torah
academy) and gave a lecture in which he raised a difficult problem in a
particular Talmudic subject. He stated that any student who could resolve the
difficulty would be considered as a candidate to become his son-in-law.
Various students proposed solutions to the problem, but he refuted all of
them. When no one presented a satisfactory answer, R. Eizel
left the yeshiva.
As the coach was pulling away, R. Eizel heard a
shout and saw that one of the students was calling to him. The student was
breathless as he overtook him. "Did you find the answer to the
problem?" R. Eizel asked. "No
I did not. It doesn't concern me that I did not become a candidate to be your
son-in-law. But I must know the answer to your problem. Please tell it to
me." R. Eizel told the student the
answer and said, "You are the only one I desire for my daughter. Of all
the students, you are the only one who could not be at peace without knowing
King Solomon said, "One who is righteous falls 7 times
and rises again" (Proverbs 24:16). This idea means that the
very process of falling and getting up again is what makes one
righteous. Life is a journey. We all have struggles and
sometimes fail; however, the persistence to continue on in the face of
challenges and difficulties can be truly transformative.
Quote of the Week
Constantly choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing
evil - Jerry Garcia (lead singer and guitarist for the Grateful
Joke of the Week
The local news station was interviewing 84 year-old Bess Schwartz because she
had just married for the fourth time. The
interviewer asked her questions about her life, about what it felt like to be
marrying at age 84, and then about her new husband's occupation. "He's a
funeral director," Bess
answered. The newsman thought that was interesting, and then asked
her if she wouldn't mind telling him a little about her first three husbands
and what they did for a living.
Bess paused for a few moments, needing time to reflect on all those years.
After a short time, a smile came to her face and she answered proudly
explaining that she first married a banker when she was in her early 20's,
then a circus ringmaster when she was in her 40's, later on a rabbi
when in her 60's, and now, a funeral director. The interviewer looked at her,
quite astonished, and asked why she had married four men with such diverse
"Easy son," she smiled.
"I married one for the money, two for the show, three to
get ready, and four to go!"