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
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
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
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,
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Gates, please share with a friend. Thanks to Alan Haber for his assistance in