Selected Sermon/Article
2010-11-12 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Vayeitze


Beyond Twelve Gates  -  Rabbi Ze'ev Smason
 Parshas Vayeitze   November 12, 2010


Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates. 

This past Sunday more than 40,000 runners participated in the New York City Marathon.  Edison Pena finished more than three and a half hours behind the champion.  Yet Pena, one of 33 Chilean miners entombed in a collapsed mine for 69 days, won the hearts of spectators with an inspiring effort.  Pena, 34, trained during his confinement,

running each morning and afternoon in steel-tipped electrician's boots that he cut down to ankle-high shoes.  He ran back and forth along a 1,000-yard path inside the mine.  Marathon organizers who learned of Pena's subterranean exercise routine had invited him to come to New York to watch the race.  They were shocked when he asked to run instead.


While running through the dark, hot passageways of the mine, Pena said, "I thought, I was going to beat destiny. I was saying to that mine, 'I can outrun you.' I am going to run till you're tired and bored of me, and I did it.  The message here is, I found a way to run. I didn't say, 'I can't.'"


The road to success is littered with many tempting parking places.  When life says, "Give up," whisper back -- as Edison Pena did --  "I'm going to try it one more time."



Parshas Vayeitzei   Genesis 28:10 -- 32:3


Jacob escapes from his wicked brother Esau and travels to Charan, where he will stay with his uncle Laban.  While spending the night at the future site of the Temple, G-d appears to Jacob in a dream.   Rich in symbolism and meaning, the dream depicts a ladder extending from heaven to earth upon which angels are ascending and descending.  After arriving in Charan, Jacob meets Laban's daughter Rachel and agrees to work for Laban for seven years for her hand in marriage.  When the wedding night finally arrives, Laban deceives Jacob by substituting his older daughter Leah in Rachel's place.  After waiting a week, Jacob marries Rachel also, but not without being forced to commit to another seven years of labor.


Over the next few years Rachel remains barren, while Leah gives birth to six sons and a daughter, and Bilhah and Zilpah (the maidservants of Rachel and Leah respectively) each have two sons with Jacob.  Finally Rachel also has a son, Joseph.  Jacob becomes very wealthy during his twenty-year stay with Laban, even though his father-in-law continually tries to swindle him.  After seeking counsel with his wives, Jacob and his family flee from Laban, who pursues and confronts him, upset that he left without saying goodbye and arrogantly claiming that Jacob stole his idols.  Eventually they sign a peace treaty and part ways.



Rabbinic Ruminations


The story is told of a rabbi who accepted a position in a new town.  Some weeks after he arrived he had an occasion to ride the bus.  When he sat down, he discovered that the driver had accidentally given him too much change.  As he considered what to do, he thought to himself, "You'd better give the quarter back. It would be wrong to keep it."  Then he thought, "Oh, forget it, it's only a quarter. Who would worry about this small amount? Anyway, the bus company gets too much fare; they'll never miss it.  Accept it as a 'gift from G-d' and keep quiet."  When his stop came, the rabbi paused momentarily at the door, handed the quarter to the driver and said, "Here, you gave me too much change."

The driver, with a smile, replied, "Aren't you the new rabbi in town?"  "Yes," the rabbi replied. "Well, I've been thinking recently about going to synagogue.  I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change.  I'll see you in shul on Shabbos."   When the rabbi stepped off the bus, he literally grabbed the nearest light pole, held on, and said, "Oh, Rebono Shel Olam (Master of the Universe), I almost sold a Jew for a quarter."


There are important lessons to be learned from this story.  First, while the Torah contains 613 commandments, one accurate indicator of true religiosity is honesty.  Many great people have stumbled due to temptations surrounding money.   Second, to the extent we are identified by others as being Jewish, we wear the name of G-d.  Jews and non-Jews alike observe us, and view us as representatives of Judaism and of G-d, Himself.   So, be careful when you're driving or waiting in line at the store; G-d is watching .....and so are many others.



Quote of the Week


It's not the high price of stardom that bothers me.  It's the high price of mediocrity --  Bill Veeck, late Major League Baseball owner



Joke of the Week


Mendel Kravitz, eighty-four years old, was hit by a car and lay bleeding on the sidewalk.  A policeman arrived on the scene and, glancing at the victim, immediately called for an ambulance and a priest.


The priest arrived first, and bending over Kravitz, he asked, "Do you believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost?"


Kravitz lifted up his head, opened his eyes wide, and turned to the crowd that had gathered round him.  "I'm laying here dying and he's asking me riddles!"

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