Beyond Twelve Gates - Rabbi Ze'ev Smason
Parshas Re'eh August 6, 2010
Welcome to Beyond Twelve
Gates. A famous long-time editor of a popular American magazine once
shouted to his employees, "It's coming in the doors!" Everyone
stopped what they were doing and looked at their boss. "It's up to
the bottom of the desk! It's up to the seats of our chairs." "What are you talking
about?" asked one of his confused
colleagues. "It's all around us. Now, it's to the top of our
desks," shouted the editor as he jumped to the top of his desk. "What
do you mean?" inquired the newsroom staff.
"Mediocrity. We're drowning in mediocrity!" the editor shouted
as he jumped from his desk and exited, never to return.
Overly critical? Possibly. Eccentric? Probably. Is there a
message? Definitely! Legendary football coach Vince
Lombardi said, "the quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to
one's commitment to excellence, regardless of their field of
endeavor." Jewish tradition teaches that each of us, according
to our capabilities, efforts and talents, has the ability in our own life to
become great. Excellence is never an accident. It represents the
wise choice of many alternatives.
Parshas Re'eh Deuteronomy 11:26 - 16:17
Moses informs the Jewish people that we each face a choice; choose to observe G-d's
directions for living (i.e. the Torah) and receive
blessings, or choose to ignore G-d and experience estrangement and its
consequences. Moses then turns to describing a number of religious, civil
and social laws relevant once the Jewish people enter the Promised Land. Included
in this listing are:
-- Don't imitate the ways of the nations surrounding you
-- A false prophet who attempts to entice you to idolatry should be put to
-- Since the Torah is
complete and perfect, nothing may be added to or subtracted from it
-- Self infliction of wounds on the body as a sign of mourning is prohibited
-- As a holy people, refrain from eating 'non-kosher' food
-- Be particularly warm-hearted and charitable. Many laws and
giving) are found in this week's portion
-- The three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Shavous and Sukkos) are
opportunities to ascend (make aliyah) to Jerusalem
and the Temple
to celebrate our blessings
If you asked Roger Woodward if he ever experienced a miracle, his answer
would be an enthusiastic 'YES!' Fifty years ago this past July a
7-year-old Roger Woodward earned bragging rights as one of the few people to
survive a plunge over Niagara Falls.
On the 50th anniversary of his 162-foot drop, Woodward recalled memories of the
"The water looked as big as a house with the waves and the rocks," he
said. "One minute you're pulled underwater, you can't breathe, you wonder
if you're ever going to breathe again. The next second you're thrown up into
the air and you come down and you're glancing off of rocks as you're going
through the rapids." He said there was a peaceful moment, though -
while he was going over the brink of the Falls. "I was floating in a
cloud," he said. "I had no sensation of up or down. I didn't
have any sensation in my stomach like you might have on a roller coaster ...
that moment when your stomach is in your throat."
Woodward and his older sister, Deanne, were rescued from the Niagara
River after being tossed from a family friend's boat on July 9,
1960. Tourists pulled Deanne to shore just before the brink, but Roger
was swept over the Horseshoe Falls. Until 2003, Woodward was the only person known
to have survived an unprotected
plunge over Niagara Falls.
Have you ever experienced a miracle? While few can claim to
have survived a drop over Niagara
Falls, the Jewish outlook is that our lives
are filled with 'small miracles' that regularly occur. In our daily
prayers we thank G-d for, "Your miracles which are with us daily, and for
Your continual wonders and kindnesses." Our rabbis teach that everythingis a miracle;
it is only through becoming accustomed to life and nature
that we no longer see the small and hidden miracles that surround us. Whether it
be a unique 'coincidence' that attracts our attention, the
birth of a child, or each breath we take, our lives are surrounded by
miracles. G-d is certainly with us and speaks with us. We need only
to open our eyes and see.
Quote of the
Don't complain and talk about all your problems -- 80 percent of people don't
care; the other 20 percent will think you deserve
them. Mark Twain
Joke of the Week
A Speech at the U.N.
An ingenious example of speech and politics occurred recently in the United
Nations General Assembly which made the world community smile.
A representative from Israel
began: "Before beginning my talk I want to tell you something about
Moses. When he struck the rock and it brought forth water, he thought,
'What a good opportunity to have a bath! Moses removed
his clothes, put them aside on the rock and entered the water. When he
got out and wanted to dress, his clothes had vanished. A Palestinian had
The Palestinian representative jumped up furiously and shouted, "What are
you talking about? The Palestinians weren't there then!"
The Israeli representative smiled and said, "And now that you have
made my point, I will begin my speech."
(thanks to Margie Peary for the joke)