Selected Sermon/Article
2010-07-16 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Devarim


Beyond Twelve Gates  -  Rabbi Ze'ev Smason
Parshas  Devarim   July 16, 2010



Beyond Twelve Gates          Parshas Devarim              July 16, 2010


Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.  Arguing over money is an unfortunate but common occurrence in many families.  Most of the time, though, the decision isn't decreed in a court of law.  In a case that takes parent-child squabbles to a new level, Dana Soderberg sued her father to force him to fulfill their agreement to pay for her education at Southern Connecticut State University.  Dana didn't file a lawsuit against her own father based on a mere promise, however -- she had a legal document to back her up.  The judge sided with the daughter, awarding her $47,000. 

If a daughter successfully suing her father for nearly $50,000 to recoup the cost of her college loans sounds unusual, Dana's attorney, Renee C. Berman, would be the first to agree. "Nothing that I've researched has shown any cases like this and hopefully there won't be any more, because it's a sad situation," Berman said. 

Many recognize that there are often special difficulties in dealing with family members.  However, the effort to forge better relationships with relatives is worth the effort.  The Talmud says, "One who seeks to draw closer to family members can call upon G-d, and He will answer you."  The greatness of Aaron, brother of Moses, was that he 'loved peace and pursued it.'  Improving relationships within our own families will draw us closer to the Almighty. 


Parshas Devarim    Deuteronomy 1:1 - 3:11


This week we begin the fifth and final book of the Torah, Deuteronomy.  This book is also called Mishne Torah, "Repetition of the Torah" - thus the Greek title 'Deuteronomy.'   Its contents were spoken by Moses to the Jewish people during the final 5 weeks of his life as the people prepared to cross the Jordan River into the land of Israel.  A central theme of Deuteronomy is Moses' review of the mitzvos, and his emphasis on the change of lifestyle the Jewish people were to undergo.  The transition was to be made from a supernatural existence in the desert to a natural life to be experienced in the Land of Israel...


The portion begins with Moses' veiled rebuke in which he makes reference to the many sins and rebellions of the past forty years.  Moses spends significant time discussing the failed mission of the spies; ten of the twelve men sent to scout out the land returned with a bad report, resulting in the entire nation wandering in the desert for forty years.  Moses later discusses the Children of Israel's conquest on the eastern bank of the Jordan River.  This Torah portion concludes with words of encouragement for Moses' successor, Joshua.



Rabbinic Ruminations


Do you remember the popular E.F. Hutton commercials based on the phrase, "When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen"?    When financial guru Warren Buffett talks, people listen.  Buffett, one of the most successful investors of our age, is consistently ranked among the world's wealthiest people, and is the third wealthiest person in the world.   Known as the "Oracle of Omaha" or the "Sage of Omaha", Buffett is known for his wide-ranging views on economic, political and cultural issues.  


Buffett was recently asked what was the best advice he ever received.  You might be as surprised as I was by his answer:  It has nothing to do with money.  The "Oracle of Omaha" credited his father for teaching him how to live, and explained that all parents can make a "better human being" by offering their children unconditional love:


The power of unconditional love ...  there is no power on earth like unconditional love.  And I think that if you offered that to your child ... you're 90 percent of the way home.  There may be days when you don't feel like it, it's not uncritical love, that's a different animal, but to know you can always come back, that is huge in life.  That takes you a long, long way.  And I would say that every parent out there that can extend that to their child at an early age, it's going to make for a better human being.


Warren Buffett's thoughts on child raising are echoed in traditional Judaism. The Torah teaches that raising a child is like holding a bird in your hand.  If you open your hand too loosely, the bird will fly away.  If you close your hand too firmly, you run the risk of crushing the bird.  So too, the best way to teach a child how to live means striking a balance between measured, appropriate discipline, and between love -- with a  generous and abundant emphasis on unconditional love.  

Quote of the Week


One of the gifts of the Jewish culture to Christianity is that it has taught Christians to think like Jews.  Any modern man who has not learned to think as though he were a Jew can hardly be said to have learned to think at all. -- William Rees-Mogg, English journalist



Joke of the Week


On Monday evening of this coming week (July 19) begins Tisha B'Av, the Jewish National Day of Mourning.  Tisha B'Av is a full 24 hour fast, similar in that respect to Yom Kippur.   Tisha B'Av is certainly the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, commemorating the multiple tragedies that occurred to the Jewish people throughout our long history.  Remarkably, the destruction of the first and second Holy Temples took place on Tisha B'Av itself.  Tisha B'Av is preceded by the sad and introspective period known as 'The 9 Days'.  During these days we minimize joy and laughter to better focus on the meaning of this period of time.   I have a great Joke of the Week to share with you .... but in deference to the solemnity of the 9 Days and Tisha B'Av, I'll save it for next week.  





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