Selected Sermon/Article
2010-09-22 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Editor's note:

Editor's note:
  Please see our information at the bottom of this page about Rabbi Smason's "Rabbi-Ride-Around at Forest Park, St. Louis Sunday, October 10, 2010"



Beyond Twelve Gates  -  Rabbi Ze'ev Smason
Sukkas   September 24, 2010


Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates. 

A friend and reader, 'Angie', shared a story about her substitute assignment at a private high school.  The lesson plan in the Classic Literature class included reading aloud from J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye."  The novel is truly a classic; it was included on Time's 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923, and it was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English language novels of the 20th century.  However, the novel's protagonist and antihero, Holden Caulfield, swears steadily throughout the book.


Angie told me that she took a polite but firm stand regarding a repeated profanity of G-d's name.  Students in the class respected the teacher's request to skip over the word and keep on reading.  Angie noted that "in a public school setting, I could probably be fired for standing up for G-d.  But I know there had to be students who also disliked the content but felt too scared to say anything." 


Angie's story about her teaching assignment is a wonderful one.  It brings to mind the classic Jewish teaching (expressed in Ethics of Our Fathers) that states, "In a place where there is no person, strive to be a person."   Standing up for truth is rarely easy -- but it's always the right thing to do.  In the bigger picture of life, we never lose when we do the right thing.    

Torah Reading for Sukkos
The Torah readings for the first two days of Sukkos and Shabbos reflect central themes of the holiday of Sukkos.  On both Thursday and Friday (September 23 & 24) the Torah reading is from Leviticus 22:26 -- 23: 44.  On Shabbos the Torah reading is from Exodus 33:12 -- 34:26.   The readings include descriptions of the featured mitzvos of the holiday.  During Sukkos we dwell in a 'Sukkah' -- a booth or hut whose roof is made of detached tree branches and other natural material.  As the weather begins to turn cooler, we leave the comfort of the indoors for our Sukkah.  In it we joyously reflect upon what we achieved over the course of the High Holidays and renew our commitment to spirituality and a G-d centered life. 

The Torah readings also describe the 4 Species (Arba Minim) used on Sukkos: The palm branch (lulav), citron (esrog), myrtle branches (hadassim), and willow branches (aravos).  A well known concept is that the 4 Species represent distinct personality types: 

1) The edible and fragrant esrog symbolizes one who is both Torah-learned and charitable, 
2) the lulav, which bears sweet dates but totally lacks fragrance, represents one who is learned but lacking in good deeds, 
3) the fragrant but inedible hadas symbolizes one who excels in good deeds but is unlearned, and
4) the aravasymbolizes a simple person, lacking both Torah knowledge and good deeds.  
By binding these species together and holding them at one time, we express the unity of all Jews.


Rabbinical Ruminations


Albert Einstein once said, "Life is like riding a bicycle.  In order to keep your balance, you must keep moving."  Philippe Croizon, a 42 year old Frenchman, is a man on the move.


This past weekend Croizon, whose arms and legs were amputated, swam across the English Channel using leg prostheses that have flippers attached. The Frenchman had expected the tough crossing to take up to 24 hours - and instead, he finished in only 13 and a half.  "I did it, I'm happy, I'm so happy, I can't believe it, it's crazy," he told France-Info radio, sounding giddy on arrival late Saturday.  Croizon's specially designed leg prostheses, which end in flippers, allow him to propel himself through the water.  His truncated upper arms go through the motions of the crawl, and he breathes through a snorkel.  Croizon made headlines in 2007 for parachuting from an airplane.  He wrote a book about his experiences called "J'ai decide de vivre" (I decided to live.)


In the face of difficulties, human beings possess a great character trait that allows them to meet all challenges; resilience.  Resilience is found in those who refuse to succumb to hardship.  Those with resilience enjoy a foundation of strength and character, enabling them to rise to any occasion.


The Book of Proverbs says that the righteous man falls seven times, but then arises.  The difference between the righteous and others is not that the righteous never stumble.   At various times in life, we all experience tragedy and adversity; everyone errs and commits mistakes.  Nevertheless, the righteous get up while others remain down.  They don't throw in the towel saying, "What's the use? G-d is unfair. Life is unfair. I give up."


Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.

Quote of the Week

The problem with doing nothing is that you never know when you're through. That's why it's so easy to keep on doing nothing -- Wilt Chamberlain


Joke of the Week

A little old Jewish lady is flying out of New York City on her way to Miami Beach. She looks at the businessman sitting next to her and asks him, "Excuse me sir, but are you Jewish?"
The man responds politely, "No, ma'am, I'm not Jewish."
After a little while she again queries him, "You're really Jewish, aren't you?"
Again he responds, "No ma'am, I am not Jewish."
Barely 10 minutes later, the little old lady asks him once more, "Are you sure you're not Jewish?"
To which in exasperation, and in a final effort to get her to leave him alone, he replies, "Okay. Yes, ma'am, I am Jewish."

"Funny," she says, looking puzzled, "you don't look Jewish!"


Rabbi-Ride-Around at  Forest Park, St. Louis Sunday, October 10, 2010


Rabbi Ze'ev Smason (author of Beyond Twelve Gates) will attempt to repeat last year's feat of riding his bicycle 50 miles around Forest Park.  By sponsoring the ride, per mile, you have an opportunity to express appreciation for the weekly Beyond Twelve Gates that you receive, contribute to Nusach Hari Bnai Zion's educational AND give encouragement and support to Rabbi Smason as he circles (and circles, and circles..) Forest Park.  Please consider a sponsorship of at least $1.00 per mile.


The ride will begin at 10:00 am, with a picnic for all at 12:30 pm.  Email your pledges to:   After the event, checks can be mailed to:  NHBZ, 8630 Olive St., St. Louis, MO  63132




We are a community at Nusach Hari B'nai Zion, dedicated to outreach and to the inclusion of all Jews. As such we strongly encourage you to be a part of our social media presence. Along with email, Facebook and Twitter are the new "word of mouth." If you are already a member of either one, please join us there. In addition, it's essential that you encourage your family and friends to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. The more people who join us as a part of our social media conversation, the more people we have an opportunity to reach.

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Everything Jewish in St. Louis - including Rabbi Smason's column, community events, news, commentary and features for Jews of all
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Comments, questions, requests to be added to our email list or better jokes can be sent to or   Care to know more about Nusach Hari Bnai Zion Congregation?  Check us out at  If you enjoyed Beyond Twelve Gates, please share with a friend. Thanks to Alan Haber for his assistance in distributing BTG