Selected Sermon/Article
2010-09-17 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Yom Kippur - 5771


Beyond Twelve Gates  -  Rabbi Ze'ev Smason
Yom Kippur   September 17, 2010


Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.  Mark Spitz, the seven-time gold medalist swimmer at the 1972 Olympics, is Jewish.  So is Dolph Schayes, honored as one of the 50 greatest NBA players of all time.  Then there's Sandy Koufax.  His refusal to play on Yom Kippur in 1965 sparked a firestorm of criticism and philosophical debate, since the holiday fell during Game 1 of the World Series.  But Koufax came back to start three times, including a complete-game shutout in Game 5 and a three-hit shutout on just two days rest in Game 7, which clinched the Series for the Dodgers.

Koufax's decision to put his religious beliefs ahead of his pitching career enhanced his legacy, giving him Jewish folk hero status.  It may be that because of Sandy Koufax, many Jews made a commitment to take the day off every Yom Kippur.  While few of us are as well known as Koufax, we shouldn't underestimate our ability to be a positive influence upon others.  The expression "Little pitchers have big ears" reminds us that our children watch us and listen to our words with rapt attention even when we think they aren't looking or listening.   And it's not just our children who are paying attention.  We have an impact on the lives of so many people, even on strangers, without even realizing it.
As G-d inscribes us in the Book of Life, may we make beautiful impressions on those who are living.
Torah Readings for Yom Kippur

On the morning of Yom Kippur, the Torah reading is from Leviticus 16:1-34.   This portion describes the service performed on Yom Kippur by the Kohen Gadol (high priest) in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.  A special feature of the service was the casting of lots over two goats -- equal in size and appearance -- to determine which should be offered to G-d in the Holy Temple, and which should be sent away to carry off the sins of Israel to the wilderness ('the scapegoat').  The climax of the service was when the Kohen Gadol entered the innermost chamber in the Temple, the 'Holy of Holies.'  Wearing special garments of pure white linen, the Kohen Gadol would enter the sacred place with a pan of burning coals in his right hand, and a ladle containing an exact handful of ketores (incense) in his left.  Inside the Holy of Holies, he would place the ketores over the coals, wait for the room to fill with its aromatic smoke, and hastily retreat.  "This shall be an everlasting statute for you," the Torah reading concludes.  "....for on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before G-d .... once a year."
In the afternoon, the Torah reading is from Leviticus 18:1-30.  The portion deals with forbidden sexual relationships, teaching that the cornerstone of morality is self-control over animal sensuality.  The special Haftorah of the book of Jonah is then read.  Though most know that a large fish swallowed Jonah, the message of Jonah is actually a timeless lesson in the power of teshuva (repentance) and G-d's desire to help man rather than punish him.
Rabbinic Ruminations

The beginning of a meaningful Yom Kippur depends upon being able to admit our past mistakes.  Excusiology -- the inability to admit our guilt -- has been around for a long time, and things haven't changed much over the past 5,771 years.
We usually say that the sin of Adam and Eve was because they disobeyed G-d's instructions not to eat from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.  But on closer analysis, they weren't punished immediately after their colossal mistake.  G-d engaged Adam in conversation, giving him the opportunity to admit what he did.   Adam didn't accept this opportunity.  Instead he said, "the woman who you gave to me - she gave me of the tree and I ate."   Adam avoided responsibility for his sin, shifting it onto Eve.  
Then G-d turned to Eve, also giving her a chance to repent.  However, she too declined the offer, saying, "the serpent deceived me and I ate.  Only then did G-d punish them for the sin.  It's clear that had they taken responsibility for their actions when G-d confronted them that the punishment would have been far lighter.  Who knows how different the course of history might have been?
And incredibly, Adam even blamed G-d for his mistake.   He said, "The woman you gave me caused me to eat."   Talk about being an Excusiologist
Quote of the Week
I don't know of a single foreign product that enters this country untaxed, except the answer to prayer -- Mark Twain
Joke of the Week
Yossel was a golf addict who awoke early one crisp, cool morning.  It was a perfect day for a round of golf but it also happened to be Yom Kippur.  After a great struggle with his conscience, he decided that he could squeeze in just a few quick holes before going to services.  Yossel lived close to the course and he got there soon after it opened.  Taking his clubs out of his locker, he headed for the first tee.
An angel happened to be looking down from heaven and saw Yossel on the golf course. Disturbed, he reported it to G-d, suggesting that G-d teach him a lesson that he would never forget.  G-d agreed.
Yossel played the first hole and shot a birdie; on the second hole he shot an eagle, and then on the third hole, the toughest par four on the course, he got a hole-in-one!   The angel turned to G-d and asked, "I thought you were going to teach Yossel a lesson. This is a lesson?"

G-d replied, "Think about it - now who can he tell?"




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