Selected Sermon/Article
2010-07-30 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Ekev


Beyond Twelve Gates  -  Rabbi Ze'ev Smason
Parshas  Ekev   July 30, 2010



Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.   What can $14,750 buy you in modern China?  Not a Tiffany diamond or a mini-sedan, say Robert Zhou and Daisy Chao.  But for that price, they guarantee you something more lasting, with unquestioned future benefits: a U.S. passport and citizenship for your new baby.  Zhou and Chao, a husband and wife from Taiwan who now live in Shanghai, run one of China's oldest and most successful consultancies helping well-heeled expectant Chinese mothers travel to the United States to give birth.  American law says anyone born on U.S. soil has the right to citizenship.  


The proliferation of U.S. baby services shows that for many Chinese, a U.S. passport remains a powerful lure.  The reasons they want American passports for their babies are varied, but most come down to two key factors -- education and setting.  As a U.S. citizen, a child has access to free public education from primary school through high school.  Additionally, a full education in the United States can be much cheaper than at top Chinese private schools and universities.


To quote a Chinese proverb, "When eating bamboo sprouts, remember the one who planted them."  Some born in the United States may take citizenship for granted. But if through the blessing of Divine Providence one is a U.S. citizen, we should have an "attitude of gratitude."   Let us thank G-d for our multiple blessings -- including that as free citizens in a land of opportunity.  



Parshas Eikev -- Deuteronomy 7:12 - 11:25
Moses continues to encourage the Children of Israel to trust in G-d and in the prosperity and health which will follow if they keep the Torah.  If they are careful to observe even those 'minor' mitzvos that are usually 'trampled' underfoot, he promises that they will be the most blessed of the nations of the Earth.  Moses reminds them of their numerous transgressions in the desert, including the mystifying sin of the Golden Calf.  Moses describes the bountiful Land of Israel filled with wheat, barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates, a land of oil-yielding olives and date-honey.  He teaches the people the second paragraph of the Shemawhich stresses the fundamental doctrine of reward for keeping the mitzvos and the consequences of non-compliance.  All that G-d requires of us, Moses says, is to love G-d, revere Him, and to observe His Torah.  Easier said than done!  Parshas Eikev concludes with the promise that G-d will provide the Jewish people with protection if they observe the laws of the Torah.
Many are familiar with the famous phrase (found in this week's portion), "Man does not live by bread alone."   But do you know what the second half of the verse states?   It says,  "...... but by all that comes from the mouth of G-d."   This important idea teaches that physical nourishment and external pleasures aren't sufficient for a satisfied life.  Every human being has spiritual needs that must also be met.
Rabbinic Ruminations
Do you treasure every moment?  The importance of appreciating the moment is reflected in a verse from Proverbs (17:24) "Wisdom lies before an understanding person, but a fool's eyes are directed to the ends of the earth." 


Could there be a growing realization even today that life is more than a series of transactions-even from a credit card brand?  A recent Australian MasterCard campaign reflects an attitude fostered by the global economic downturn: a turn away from compulsive consumption and a focus on appreciating the value of "the moment," and specifically the time that goes into making that moment special.  A 30-second commercial shows how a small rock is formed over eons, from its origins in a volcano to being skipped over water by a dad and his son. Says the voiceover: "Not knowing how much goes into a moment? Priceless."

It's been said that we don't know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory. The value of a moment was poignantly described in the book Real Moments by a 70 year old patient in an Intensive Care Unit:

First I was dying to finish high school, then I was dying to finish college and start working.  And then I was dying to marry and have children.  Then I was dying for my children to grow old enough for school so I could return to work.  Then I was dying to retire.  And now, I am dying ...and suddenly, I realize I forgot to live."

To return to the verse from Proverbs; A fool concentrates on the end and goal ('to the ends of the earth'), whereas the wise person thinks of the here and now, enjoying the process and the moment ('wisdom lies before an understanding person').

Every penny counts.  So does every moment.



Quote of the Week
In my house, I'm the boss.  My wife is just the decision maker -- Woody Allen
Joke of the Week
Tony decides to join a monastic order that requires him to spend the first 20 years of training in complete silence.  The head monk tells him that he is only allowed to say two words every three years.
After 3 years of keeping his vow Tony is summoned before the head monk and asked if he has anything to say, in two words or less.  He says, "Food stinks."   "Well, thank you for your input," says the head monk.  "We always like to know what's on the mind of our novices."   Three more years go by, and Tony is again summoned before the head monk.  "Well, do you have anything to say now?," he is asked.   "Bed hard," is Tony's answer.  "Well, thank you for your response.  It's good to know what our novices are thinking."  After three more years the head monk finds Tony and asks him if he has anything to say.  "I quit!"  he says.


"Well, I'm not surprised," says the head monk. "You've done nothing but complain since you got here!"


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