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2010-07-09 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Matos - Masei


Beyond Twelve Gates  -  Rabbi Ze'ev Smason
Parshas  Matos - Masei   July 9, 2010



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 their inheritance.


 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!



Rabbinic Ruminations


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 the answer."

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 Dead)



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 careers.

"Easy son," she smiled.

"I married one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to go!"


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