Selected Sermon/Article
2010-07-23 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Va'eschanan


Beyond Twelve Gates  -  Rabbi Ze'ev Smason
Parshas  Va'eschanan   July 23, 2010



Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.  If you can't trust the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), who can you trust?  In print since 1860, the OED claims the title of the 'definitive record of the English language.'  An Australian physicist, however, wasn't intimidated by the OED's lofty reputation.  University of Queensland academic Dr. Stephen Hughes discovered a schoolboy error in the dictionary that stood uncorrected for almost a century.   Entries for the word siphon incorrectly said that atmospheric pressure is the force that allows the device to move liquids from one place to another.  Not so!   It is gravity that pushes liquid through a siphon tube, not atmospheric pressure.  Even I knew that -- sort of.


Dr. Hughes said, "An extensive check of online and offline dictionaries did not reveal a single dictionary that correctly referred to gravity being the operative force in a siphon." The intrepid Dr. Hughes emailed the OED's editors, who promptly acknowledged the error with a promise to revise the definition of siphon in the dictionary's next edition.  Albert Einstein once said, "The important thing is not to stop questioning.  Curiosity has its own reason for existing."  The Jewish way is to respectfully challenge conventional wisdom, and to never be afraid of asking questions.



Parshas Va'eschanan     Deuteronomy 3:23 - 7:11


Moses continues his final speech to the Children of Israel (the rabbis always talk about the 'Children of Israel' -- where were all the adults?).  He tells them how he entreated G-d to allow him to enter the land of Israel, but his request was denied.  Moses was allowed, however, to seethe Promised Land from the peak of Mount Pisgah.


Moses appeals to the people to keep the Torah and its commandments, neither adding to nor subtracting from its mitzvos.  They are told to always remember the incredible Revelation they experienced at Mt. Sinai (the mountain, not the hospital) where every man, woman and child heard the presentation of the Ten Commandments.  Moses repeats the Ten Commandments, with subtle differences between this version and the one found in the Book of Exodus.   Did you ever wonder where the Shema comes from?  It is found in this week's Torah portion.  The Shema expresses our belief that G-d is one and states our commitment to love and serve Him.  It exhorts us to transmit Torah to the next generation, and its laws should be remembered by a 'sign' upon ones hand and forehead (tefillin) and written on the doorposts of one's home (mezuzah).


Finally, Moses encourages the people to trust in G-d and remain faithful to the Torah. Intermarriage is prohibited, and the source that Jewish identity is transmitted through the mother is stated.  



Rabbinic Ruminations


Ladies: Were you born before 1979? You may already be over the hill, at least if you believe a new QVC poll.  The poll says that a woman hits her confidence and beauty peak at age 31, according to the British National newspaper the Daily Mail.  In the survey, 70% of the more than 2,000 men and women said that confidence ranked as the most important trait in making a woman attractive, followed by physical beauty (67%) and good style (47%).

Don't worry, though.  There's no need to go slip inside the cryo-chamber.  There's nothing ordinary about a  woman, no matter who she is or how old she is.  What is it that makes a woman beautiful?  Is it her smile, her physique, her elegance, or her sense of style?

The Torah highlights the beauty of many women such as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Esther.  Physical beauty is not to be ignored, or hidden behind a burka.   However, physical beauty alone obscures and diminishes a woman's essence.  "Like a golden ring in the snout of a swine," says Proverbs, "is a beautiful woman who lacks good sense."   In the famous Woman of Valor hymn, King Solomon writes, "Charm is false and beauty is futile; a G-d revering woman-she is to be praised."   Beauty is futile when it is only a veneer, or a sole focus.  But if a woman lives her life with spiritual purpose and reveres    G-d, then she, together with her physical beauty and charm, is to be praised as a truly beautiful woman. 


Quote of the Week


I don't deserve this award, but I have arthritis, and I don't deserve that either -- Jack Benny


Joke of the Week


Yankel came home from day camp without his towel.  "Where is your towel?" asked his mother.  "I don't know," he sighed.  "I couldn't find it after swimming.  Maybe someone took it."


Mrs. Greenberg was irate.  "Who could have taken your towel?  It was a great towel!  Yankel, you would never take someone else's towel.  You know I raised you differently than that, right?"


A few moments later, she was on the phone with the day camp director.


"Hello.  This is Mrs. Greenberg.  There is a young thief in your camp."


"How so?"


"My son had a towel stolen from camp!"  He brought it with him today, but couldn't find it to bring home."


"Please calm down, Mrs. Greenberg," came the voice on the line.   "I'm sure that no one stole your son's towel.  Can you describe it to me?"


"Sure I can!  It was white and big.  You couldn't miss it.  And printed on the front, in big green letters, were the words. 'Holiday Inn'!"



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