Selected Sermon/Article
2010-09-03 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Nitzvavim/Vayelech


Beyond Twelve Gates  -  Rabbi Ze'ev Smason
Parshas  Nitzavim - Vayelech   September 3, 2010


Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.  Shalom Aleichem tells the story about an old man on a crowded bus.  A young man standing next to him asked him politely, "What time is it?"  But the old man refused to reply.  After the young man moved away, the old man's friend asked, "Why were you so rude to the young man asking for the time?"  The old man answered, "If I give him the time of day, he would next want to know where I'm going.  Then we might talk about our interests.   If we did that, he might invite himself over to my house for dinner.  If he did, he would meet my lovely daughter.  If he met her, they would both fall in love, and I don't want my daughter marrying someone who can't afford a watch."
Too many of us allow the problems that might occur to be used as an excuse to remain comfortably inactive.   It was once said, "Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out."   Change is not simple for anyone, and may involve numerous risks.   It's not easy to admit that we aren't perfect and to embark on a journey into an unknown realm of self-growth.  Nonetheless, the Torah tells us - as do our own life experiences - that when a person makes the effort, when one truly goes through the internal process, that the way for change is prepared.   The month of Elul, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is the season of change.
Parshas Nitzavim - Vayelech      Deuteronomy 29:9 - 31:30
Nitzavim begins with Moses gathering every member of the Jewish people for the final time. He initiates them into a Covenant with G-d as the Almighty's 'Chosen People'.  This Covenant applied not only to those present on that day, but to all future Jewish generations.  A question for your consideration; how could someone not present be bound to a commitment made by their ancestors?  What is the binding force today that obligates all Jews to keep a Torah accepted over 3,000 years ago?
Moses tells the people that although eventually they will sin, in time they will repent and return to the Torah, and G-d will usher in the messianic era when we all return to the land of Israel. Furthermore, he assures them that the commandments are neither distant nor inaccessible ('it is not in heaven').  This means that a committed Jewish life is well within everyone's reach.
Vayelech opens with Moses walking through the Jewish camp on the final day of his life to say goodbye to his beloved people.  He teaches them the mitzvah of Hakel, the once-in-seven-years gathering of the entire nation to hear the king read certain passages from the Torah.  G-d commands that a special Torah, written by Moses, be placed by the Levites at the side of the Holy Ark to bear witness against Israel if they were to ever deviate from its teachings.

Quote of the Week

When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money  -- Cree (Native American) saying  
(thanks to Sandy James for the Quote of the Week)
Rabbinical Ruminations
There are temper tantrums, and then there are temper tantrums. Manager Gary Robinson recently threw a memorable tantrum for fans at a minor league baseball game.  At first the disagreement between Robinson and umpire Roberto Ortiz looked like a garden-variety baseball squabble. However, once the umpire ejected the manager from the game, Robinson went into a frenzy.  He returned to the field yelling, screaming, and kicking dirt on home plate.  The manager then got down on his knees and, using his hands, covered home plate with dirt.  Then for good measure, he stood up and kicked dirt on the umpire.   Robinson then jogged down the baseline and pulled first base out of the ground.  Fans thought that the volatile manager was going to heave the base, discus-style.  But the show got better. Robinson reached into the front of his jersey, pulled out a pen, and signed the bag.  Not waiting for an eBay auction, Robinson walked to the stands and handed the souvenir to a 13-year old boy sitting in the second row!
Later, the manager admitted that he wasn't particularly proud of his actions  "Impulsively, you do things," Robinson said. "Sometimes you do things to make a point.  At the same time, there's a lot of times you regret what you do."
 I'm reminded of the story of the little boy who asked his mother, "Mommy, why do the idiots only come out when Daddy drives?" Some day that little boy will understand that Daddy's anger says more about Daddy than it does about the quality of the drivers on the road.
Impulsive outbursts of anger harm us in many ways.   Ethics of the Fathers states, "the short-tempered cannot teach." The Talmud teaches that the greatest impediment to shalom bayis (peace in the home) is uncontrolled anger.  Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one.  
Joke of the Week
Chaim is driving around suburban Jerusalem and he sees a sign in front of a house: "Talking Dog For Sale." He rings the bell and the owner tells him the dog is in the backyard.  Chaim goes into the backyard and sees a Labrador retriever sitting there.
"So, you talk?" he asks.
"Yap," the dog replies.
"So, what's your story?" asks Chaim.
The dog looks up and says, "Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young and I wanted to help out. So I told the Mossad about my gift, and in no time they had me sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders and suspected terrorists, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping. I was one of their most valuable agents for eight years running.  But it was exhausting work and really tired me out.  I knew I wasn't getting any younger and I wanted to settle down.  So I signed up for a less stressful job at Ben Gurion airport to do some undercover security work, mostly wandering near suspicious characters and listening in.  I uncovered some incredible stuff and was awarded a batch of medals. During that time I got married, had a mess of puppies, and now I'm just retired.  And pretty much, that's it."

Chaim is amazed.  He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog.
"Ten dollars." The owner says.
"This dog is amazing.  Why on earth are you selling him so cheap?"

"Because he's a liar.  He never worked for Mossad!"



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