Selected Sermon/Article
2010-08-27 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Ki Savo


Beyond Twelve Gates  -  Rabbi Ze'ev Smason
Parshas  Ki Savo   August 27, 2010


Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.  Sure, it's expensive to buy the toys of the rich and famous.  But buying them is just the start.  Once you have them, they cost a small fortune to keep.


The Gulfstream G550 is a highly sought-after long-range private jet that is popular among very wealthy individuals.  Even if you can afford the hefty price tag of $50.5 million, if flown often it will burn through nearly a million dollars a year.  Maintenance, insurance and hanger costs add another million.  Can't afford the private jet? How about the much more affordable personal helicopter? You might have to fly commercial but at least you won't have to take a cab to the airport.   A Bell 430, a top-of-the-line executive model will eat up a mere $1 million a year in fuel, crew salaries, and other costs.  That driver for your exotic car can cost $70,000 a year or higher.  Private islands remain popular among the ultra-rich, but their annual operating costs are $200,000 and up.  And if you just have to have a personal chef, be prepared to fork out (no pun intended) between $80,000 to $150,000 a year.


Is wealth a good thing?  It depends.  Whoever fulfills the Torah despite poverty, will ultimately fulfill it in wealth; but whoever neglects the Torah because of wealth, will ultimately neglect it in poverty (Ethics of the Fathers).  Whether you're rich or poor, it's nice to have money.  And if you do have money - like all blessings - make sure you use it properly.



Parshas Ki Savo    Deuteronomy 26:1 -- 29:8
The parsha begins by describing the annual mitzvah for farmers in Israel to bring their bikurim, or first fruits, to the Kohen in the Temple.  The donor was then to recite a prayer of thanksgiving, recalling how G-d had delivered his ancestors from Egypt and brought the new generation into a land flowing with milk and honey.
Moses then teaches two special mitzvos which the Jewish people are to perform upon entering the land of Israel.  Firstly, they are to inscribe the entire Torah on twelve large stones.  Secondly, the twelve tribes are to ratify their acceptance of the Torah in the following manner; six tribes were to stand on Mt. Gerizim, representing the blessings, while the remaining six tribes were to stand on Mt. Eival, signifying the curses.  The Levites were to stand in the valley between, reciting blessings and curses which will apply respectively to those who observe and defy the Torah.
The parsha concludes with a recounting of the wonderful blessings G-d will bestow upon the Jewish people for remaining faithful, and a chilling prophecy of what might happen if the Jewish people do not follow the Torah.



Rabbinic Ruminations


Do you mind your P's and Q's ?  These days, Ron Sveden certainly does. Doctors thought the growth in his lung was a tumor, but when they looked closer they found an unbelievable surprise.

"I was told I had a pea seed in my lung that had split and had sprouted," said Sveden, from Massachusetts, who had been sick for months.  For two weeks tests were performed but all came back negative for cancer until one doctor found the plant growing in his lung.

"Whether this would have gone full-term and I'd be working for the Jolly Green Giant, I don't know," said Sveden.   Doctors suspect he had eaten a pea at some point in the last couple of months and it went down the wrong way, and then began to grow.  "One of the first meals I had in the hospital after the surgery had peas for the vegetable. I laughed to myself and ate them," said Sveden.  Friends and neighbors have had fun with this; in good fun, they sent him pea seeds and canned peas.


His wife was beyond happy at this strange twist of fate.  "G-d has such a sense of humor. It could have been just nothing, but it had to be a pea, and it had to be sprouting," said Nancy Sveden. 


Does G-d have a sense of humor?   Many of us have heard the Yiddish proverb Mann tracht, un Gott lacht (Man plans, and G-d laughs).  Each time we hear it we smile, because we know it is true.  A classical source for this idea is found in Psalm 2:  "The One who dwells in the Heavens laughs. G-d snickers at them," wrote King David regarding those who try to destroy the Jewish people.  Life often doesn't turn out the way we expect.  In fact, at times life seems to take a completely different direction.  We make plans, but G-d "laughs" in realizing that our plans often will not materialize.  We should continue to make plans - but, with the awareness that only with G-d's blessing will our plans come to realization.


Quote of the Week
We should always have goals.  If you don't have a mountain, build one and then climb it.  And after you climb it, build another one; otherwise you start to flatline in your life  -- Sylvester Stallone



Joke of the Week

The captain of an Iranian Air Force transport flying over the Mediterranean sends out a MAYDAY message:


"This is Iran Air Force #174 announcing we have lost one engine and want to land at any airport in the Middle East OTHER than Israel!"

No answer.

A while later he announces, "This is Iran Air Force #174 again. We have now lost two engines and need to land at any airport in the Middle East OTHER than Israel!"


A short while later the captain announces, "This is Iran Air Force #174.
We are desperate. We have now lost THREE engines and urgently ask permission to land at any airport in the Middle East OTHER than Israel!"

Still no answer.

Finally the captain calls out, "Help! This is Iran Air Force #174. We have only one engine left and it is rapidly failing. Unless we can land we are going to crash. We need permission to land at ANY airport in the Middle East INCLUDING Israel!"

Shortly thereafter, a voice is heard in the Iranian cockpit:

"Shalom Iran Air Force #174. This is Tel Aviv approach control. We would like to help."

"Allah be praised," says the Iranian pilot. "Please give me instructions."

"Do you speak Hebrew?"


"OK, then repeat after me: Yisgadal V'yiskadash Shimay Rabbah......"  (words from the Kaddish prayer, often said to honor those who have died)



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