Selected Sermon/Article
2010-10-08 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Noach
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 17, 2010"



Beyond Twelve Gates  -  Rabbi Ze'ev Smason
Parshas Noach - October 8, 2010



Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.  

Do you learn from your mistakes?  A husband and wife were enjoying an evening at home.  An action-packed adventure movie was playing, and the bad guy was being chased by a police officer down a spiral mountain highway.  As the speeds increased to an uncontrollable level, the wife said, "I bet you dinner at a fancy restaurant the criminal goes over the cliff."  "It's a bet," said the husband.  Just then the bad guy lost control on a curve and drove over the cliff.
Realizing he had just lost the bet, the husband asked, "Where do you want me to make dinner reservations?"  His wife looked over at him and said, ""I feel guilty collecting on our bet.  I've seen this movie before." 
"So have I," the husband sheepishly responded, "but I didn't think he'd be stupid enough to drive off the same cliff twice."
A wise Jewish woman (my mother, she should live and be well) would often share with her children the following piece of wisdom; "Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me."  Making mistakes is part of life.  But if we don't learn from those mistakes and repeat them, they are particularly dangerous. 



Parshas Noach     Genesis 6:9 -- 11:32
As a result of Mankind's evil, G-d brings a flood to destroy every living creature.  Only Noah, his family, and at least one pair of every animal species were spared.  Trivia question: Do you know the name of Noah's wife? (hint -- it is NOT 'Joan of Ark')   When the flood waters begin to recede after a lengthy deluge, Noah sends forth from the ark a raven and dove to determine whether the land has dried sufficiently so that they can leave the ark to once again resettle the earth.  G-d promises that He will never again destroy all of Mankind by means of a flood, and He designates the rainbow as a sign for that eternal covenant. 
Noah plants a vineyard, drinks from its produce and becomes drunk.  In his intoxicated state, he shamefully uncovers himself.  While his son Ham dealt with his father inappropriately, Noah's other two sons, Shem and Japeth, cover their father in a respectful manner.  Generations pass and the world is repopulated.  The people attempt to wage war against G-d by building the Tower of Babel.  G-d responds by mixing up their languages into a 'babble', and dispersing them across the planet.



Rabbinic Ruminations


bottle rtLast year, a high school student named Corey Swearingen put a letter in a bottle and dropped it in the Atlantic Ocean, off the Florida coast.  It was an experiment for school.  In the letter, he appealed to whomever came across the bottle to contact him and let him know where in the world it showed up.  Amazingly, someone did.
About 16 months after the bottle was dropped, Swearingen's marine science teacher heard from someone in Ireland.  The letter had made its way across the Atlantic Ocean and washed up on the shores of the Emerald Isle, found by a 17-year-old and his Dad while out for a stroll.  The wine bottle, which is being put on display in an Irish pub, is not the first message in a bottle to survive a perilous journey.


In 1979, Dorothy and John Henry Peckham dropped a message in a bottle in the Pacific Ocean while on a cruise.  Amazingly, the bottle found its way to Southeast Asia where it was picked up by 31-year-old Hoa Van Nguyen.  Nguyen wrote back and began a correspondence that eventually led to the Peckhams helping to sponsor Nguyen and his family's immigration to the United States.

These bottled messages bring to mind a favorite verse in Tenach (the Jewish Bible): "Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will again find it" (Ecclesiastes 11:1)  A literal understanding of the passage may refer to sending ships selling grain to many different ports, for some are bound to gain success.  It may also refer to casting seed on the shallow areas of a river, with the hope that some will take root.  Whatever the literal meaning, the spiritual lesson
bolle lftsuggests that a daring, altruistic act of kindness will yield guaranteed returns inthe future.  Jewish consciousness teaches that no good deed goes without creating a cosmic ripple effect, and that no mitzvahgoes unrewarded and unnoticed by G-d.


Kafka line lifeQuote of the Week  ~  A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us -- Franz Kafka


 Joke of the Week

 Yankel the butcher had a bad habit; he cheated people by putting his thumb on the scale.  Late one afternoon Mrs. Goldstein came into the butcher shop and wanted a chicken.  Yankel had only one left in the meat counter.  He then put it on the scale and announced the price.  Mrs. Goldstein hesitated, and said, "I think I'd like a little larger bird."  The butcher said, "That's no problem."  He then reached into the meat counter, put the same chicken back in, shuffled it around a bit and brought out the same chicken, put it on the scale this time with his thumb on the scale and announced a heavier weight and higher price.  However, Mrs. Goldstein was no dumb cluck.  She smiled and said, "Fine, I'll take it!  In fact, I think I'll take BOTH OF THEM."


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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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