Selected Sermon/Article
2010-09-10 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Rosh HaShana - Ha'Azinu


Beyond Twelve Gates  -  Rabbi Ze'ev Smason
Rosh HaShana - Ha'Azinu   September 10, 2010


Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.  A reader of Beyond Twelve Gates told me that she was having problems with the delivery of her local daily newspaper.  The following is the message her paper 'boy' left regarding the odd times she was receiving the paper:  "I dont dilvery papper in the morr. i do all my papper in the evening"   "Goodness knows," the reader exclaimed, "he's never read it!!" 
Certainly, there's a degree of arbitrariness about any definition of illiteracy.  Literacy has been traditionally described as the ability to read and write.  However, many feel that literacy is also about culture, social outlook, and the ability to make informed decisions.  What is 'Jewish Literacy?'  Perhaps Jewish Literacy can be simply described as 'essential Jewish knowledge.'   Are we and our children Jewishly literate?  A worthy goal for this coming year is to increase our level of Jewish literacy.

Torah Reading for Rosh Hashana
The two days of Rosh Hashana fall out on Thursday, September 9 and Friday September 10.   On Thursday the Torah reading is from Genesis 21:1 -- 21:34.  On Friday the Torah reading is from Genesis 22:1 -- 22:24.
The theme of the Thursday Torah reading is that G-d remembered Sarah at the age of 90. She bore a son named Isaac to her 100 year old husband Abraham. Our tradition teaches that Sarah conceived on Rosh Hashana.  Not only do we recall Sarah and Abraham's great merit, but we should be inspired to repent and pray just as they did.
The theme of the Friday Torah reading is the account of the Akeidah, the Binding of Isaac.  Both Abraham and Isaac demonstrated their willingness to make any sacrifice to comply with G-d's will.  Our tradition teaches that the Akeida took place on Rosh Hashana. The shofar of Rosh Hashana is customarily made of a ram's horn to recall the merit of the Akeida because a ram was substituted for Isaac on the altar.
Parshas Ha'Azinu    Deuteronomy 31: 1 -- 52 
Ha'Azinu is comprised primarily of Moses' "song" about the horrible tragedies and supreme joy which will make up the Jewish people's future history.  While not a song in the familiar sense, Moses' song is a blend of otherwise disparate ideas into a beautiful symphony of thought.  It expresses the idea that everything that G-d does -- past, present and future -- somehow fits into a perfect harmony, although our limited human understanding prevents fully recognizing the wisdom of G-d.  
Ha'Azinu contains the mitzvah for each Jew to write a Sefer Torah (Torah scroll).  Many suggest that this mitzvah can be fulfilled by the purchase of books containing Torah content.  Does your home contain any books of Torah?  Today there is an abundance of excellent Torah books written in English.  Let me suggest two: The Stone Chumash (5 Books of Moses), and Living Each Week by Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski.  Ha'azinu concludes with G-d's command to Moses to ascend Mount Nebo, where he will view the land of Israel and then pass away.  



Rabbinic Ruminations


A little girl was trying to get a turtle out of its shell.  Her uncle told her to take the turtle near a fire and warm him up so that he would come out by himself.  Said her uncle: "We are sort of like turtles.  Never try to force someone into anything.  Just warm them up with a little human kindness, and more than likely they'll come your way."


Have you ever noticed that if you add the letter 'd' to the word kin, you have kind?  To treat someone kindly is to treat them as kin.  Kindness is an action that flows from kinship.  Rosh Hashana is the day that the first human being was created; 'a birthday celebration', if you will, for Adam and Eve.  Jewish tradition teaches that the reason why humanity descended from one person rather than multiple individuals was to create a universal kinship and familial bond.   Rosh Hashana, then, is a day to recognize our kinship with all humanity.  Every person we meet, on some level, is our relative.  That understanding should motivate us to act with kindness toward all.

Quote of the Week
I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks -- Daniel Boone

Joke of the Week
In the early years of the State of Israel, nearly the entire Jewish community of Yemen was airlifted there.  Many of the arriving immigrants claimed tremendous old ages; some of them said they were 140, 150, and even 160 years old. It seemed hard to believe and it was impossible to substantiate their claims, for they had brought no accurate birth records with them.
One day, a newly resettled Yemenite Jew appeared in the Tel Aviv office of an insurance broker saying he wanted to buy a life insurance policy.  The broker looked at the man, saw he was no youngster, and asked him: "How old are you?"
"Seventy two."
"Seventy two?  That's too old.  We can't sell you a life insurance policy."
"That's not fair," the man answered.  Last week you sold my father a policy."
"Your father? How old is he?"
"Ninety five."
"Go check your records."
The agent checked the records and found to his amazement that the preceding week the man's 95 year-old father had been issued a policy. The agent came back.
'You're right.  We'll sell you a policy.  But you have to come in on Tuesday for a medical checkup."
"I can't come in on Tuesday."
"Why not?"
"My grandfather is getting married."
"Your grandfather is getting married? How old is he?"
"A hundred and seventeen."
"A hundred and seventeen? Why is he getting married?"
"His parents keep pestering him."




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