Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.
So you didn't plan ahead and got caught without an
umbrella? Don't feel bad. Believe it or not, the American
government can't locate the original tapes of the first moon landing. The
missing tapes recorded Neal Armstrong's famous statement: "That's one
small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," and the first moonwalk
that was witnessed by at least 600 million people worldwide. There are
back-up versions of the moonwalk, but the original tapes are believed to be of
far higher quality than what was seen at the time on televisions around the
Stanley Lebar of NASA, who had been in charge of
developing the lunar camera, is kicking himself now for not getting a copy for
safekeeping. "I ask myself today, 'Why the heck didn't you think
that way back then?' The answer is that I just assumed that NASA was
going to do it. But, unfortunately, that was a bad
assumption." Dolly Perkins, Deputy Director of the Goddard Space
Flight Center, is in charge of the search. She said:
"Maybe somebody didn't have the wisdom to realize that the original tapes
might be valuable sometime in the future. Certainly, we can look back now
and wonder why we didn't have better foresight about this."
"Who is wise?" the Talmud asks. "He who discerns what is about
to come to pass." It's wise to plan ahead. After all, It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark!
Parshas Toldos Genesis 25:19 -- 28:9
Isaac and Rebecca pray to G-d for a child. Rebecca finally conceives, and
after a difficult pregnancy she gives birth to twins -- Esau and Jacob.
Their personality differences soon grow apparent, as Esau turns to hunting
while Jacob is pure and wholesome, spending his time studying Torah.
Returning from a hunting expedition, Esau finds Jacob cooking a pot of
lentil soup. Jacob agrees to give his older brother a portion from the
pot of soup in exchange for the spiritual birthright.
Faced with a horrible famine, Isaac and family settle in Gerar
(the land of the Philistines within Israel's
borders) rather than descend to Egypt
as his father Abraham had done years before. After experiencing
incredible financial success, Isaac comes into continual conflict with King Avimelech over the wells which Isaac dug anew. This
pattern of 'success and persecution' has repeated itself throughout Jewish
history. Isaac decides to bless Esau as the firstborn. At Rebecca's
insistence, Jacob disguises himself as his older brother and receives the
blessing of the firstborn (which rightfully belonged to him). The Torah
portion concludes with Jacob fleeing from Esau's wrath for 'stealing' his
blessing and escaping to Charan to stay with his
uncle, Laban, where he is to find a wife.
In his book I Am a Strange Loop, Douglas R. Hofstadter, noted author
and cognitive scientist,
came up with a 'scale' for measuring the 'soul level' of different brains: the
Huneker scale. It is named after James Huneker, a music critic who said,
in the early 1900's that “Small-souled men, no matter
how agile their fingers,” should not attempt playing a certain piece by Chopin.
On the Huneker scale -- offered, perhaps, tongue-in-cheek -- a being's level of
consciousness is measured along a scale from 0 to 100 hunekers; fully-grown human beings with normal
intelligence have 100 hunekers of
consciousness. Children have something less than that,
animals are further down the scale, and so on. Hofstadter even suggests
that machines may be capable of consciousness at an extremely low
level. As the Huneker scale measures value in terms of intellectual
capacity, it is implied that things have more value the more aware and
intelligent they are.
>From the Torah perspective, however, human life is intrinsically and
infinitely valuable. Unlike the Huneker scale which asserts that
consciousness is the source of life's value, Judaism insists that human life is
intrinsically worthy because man was created in the image of G-d.
The essence of a person is G-dly, and therefore valuable.
Every person counts, and each human life is precious.
Quote of the Week
I have enough money to last me the rest of my
life unless I buy something -- Jackie Mason
Joke of the Week
There was the circus strong man who earned his living by displaying astonishing
feats of physical strength. His show would normally conclude with a
simple, but impressive demonstration of his ability to squeeze a lemon
bone-dry. After completing his act, he would then challenge his
audience to produce anyone who could extract even one drop of juice from the
On one of those occasions, Wilbur, a very small, thin, man volunteered.
He was so small that his very appearance raised a laugh from the
spectators. Undaunted, however, Wilbur stepped onto the stage and
took from the strong man what appeared to be nothing more than a shriveled up
piece of lemon rind. Then bracing himself, Wilbur slowly and firmly
compressed his right hand. Every eye was on him, and the atmosphere was
electric! A moment or two elapsed, and then, to every one's amazement --
and not least the circus strong man -- a steady stream of lemon
juice flowed down to the floor. As the cheers subsided, the
strong man asked Wilbur to come forward and tell the crowd how he had
managed to perform such an incredible feat. "Nothing to it,"
replied Wilbur; and then with a grin, added, "I happen to be a
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