Selected Sermon/Article
2010-11-05 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Toldos
Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates

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 world.
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.
Rabbinic Ruminations
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 crushed fruit.
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 fundraiser!!"


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.

To join us on Facebook go to and click the "Like" button.
To follow us on Twitter go to and click "Follow."
To follow Rabbi Smason go to click "Follow." =============================================================
Everything Jewish in St. Louis - including Rabbi Smason's column, community events, news, commentary and features for Jews of all ages - can be found on our community website, This website is a service of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis and features columns from St. Louis Rabbis and community members. ============================================================== ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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