Selected Sermon/Article
2010-11-19 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Vayishlach
Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates

Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates. 

Giving tzedaka (charity) can be a lifesaver.  Famed philanthropist Nathan Straus - after whom the Israeli city Netanya is named -  once visited Jerusalem to participate in the dedication of a soup kitchen for needy Jews whose construction he had helped to finance.  Nathan was accompanied by his brother who had refused to contribute to this project.  As they left the soup kitchen, Nathan slipped on the stairs and severely sprained his ankle. His brother, who had only disdain for the hundreds of poor Jews who depended on the kitchen, visited him in the hospital and made a cynical remark about the "reward" Nathan had received from Heaven for his "misguided charity."

Anxious to take care of some business affairs in Europe, the brother departed before Nathan had recuperated.  The ship he traveled on - the Titanic - sank and he lost his life.  Only then did it become clear that Nathan's tzedaka had saved his life.
Parshas Vayishlach  Genesis 32:4 -- 36:43

Jacob and family return from the house of Laban to the land of Israel, only to find Esau heading toward them with 400 men, ready for battle.  After preparing his family for war and praying to G-d for help, Jacob attempts to appease his brother by sending him a gift of many animals.  After his family crosses the river to await their meeting with Esau, Jacob is left alone for an all-night 'confrontation' with an angel disguised as a man.  Although Jacob is victorious, he is left limping from a hip-dislocation.  Rejoining his family, Jacob encounters Esau who accepts him with an apparent new-found brotherly love.  Jacob and Esau part ways, in peace.
Another crisis arises when Jacob's daughter Dinah is abducted and raped by Shechem, the prince of a town with the same name.  Two of Jacob's sons, outraged at the humiliation caused to their sister, trick the town's residents into circumcising themselves (ouch!) on the condition that they would then be allowed to intermarry with Jacob's family.  Simeon and Levi (the two brothers) then decimate the entire city and save Dinah.   Later in the portion, G-d blesses Jacob and gives him the additional name, Israel.  Soon after, Rachel dies while giving birth to Benjamin, Jacob's twelfth son.   Finally, Jacob returns home and is reunited with his father Isaac.  The Torah portion concludes with a lengthy genealogy of Esau's family. 

Rabbinic Ruminations

The world record for the loudest scream, 129 decibels, is held by mother-of-two Jill Drake of England.  For comparison's sake, the rock band Deep Purple was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the "loudest pop group" when in a concert their sound reached 117 decibels.  Three of their audience members were rendered unconscious.   Jill Drake's yell was nine decibels more than a train horn, as loud as a pneumatic drill, and only 10 decibels lower than a jumbo jet taking off.   In the animal world, the howler monkey is the loudest land animal, and can be heard over three miles away even through dense rain forest.  The call of the blue whale reaches levels up to 188 decibels and can be heard for hundreds of miles underwater.  The tiger pistol shrimp, however, can emit a sound up to 200 decibels which it uses to stun its prey.  Thankfully, it lives deep under water.

All that noise brings to mind the teaching of Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel, who said, "All my days I grew up among the Sages and I found nothing better for oneself than silence." (Ethics of the Fathers)  Why is this the case?

Noise lets us ignore our most precious possession; our true and profound selves.  When we're alone in the car, why do we immediately reach for the radio?  We're afraid of silence.  To consider the purpose of our lives and meaning of our existence requires thoughtful contemplation.  We allow ourselves to be busy and distracted from the most important things in life; consideration of our goals, improvement of our character, and our relationship with the Almighty.  The next time you're alone in the car,  resist the urge to put on the radio.  Instead, take advantage of the quiet.

Quote of the Week
Do, or do not. There is no 'try' --- Yoda ('The Empire Strikes Back')

Joke of the Week
All we ever tell are Jewish jokes. So, here are some gentile jokes.
A gentile goes into a clothing store and says, "This is a very fine jacket. How much is it?" The salesman says, "It's $500." The gentile says, "OK, I'll take it.
Two gentiles meet on the street. The first one says, "You own your own business, don't you? How's it going?" The other gentile says, "Just great! Thanks for asking!"

A man calls his mother and says, "Mother, I know you're expecting me for dinner this evening, but something important has come up and I can't make it." His mother says, "OK."


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