Selected Sermon/Article
2011-01-14 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Beshalach

Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates. 

A mole is born to dig.  It has widened front paws, with long claws and appendages joined together to form a shovel-like digging tool.  Its body is extremely flexible, enabling it to maneuver easily through the scores of tunnels it digs.  Its head is designed for its life of digging as well: It is flattened, its nose is protected with a horn-like material, and its eyes are covered with thick hide.  Despite the covering, it can detect light and darkness.

Although Bruce Springsteen claimed he was 'Born to Run' (in the song, anyway), humankind's unique feature is a Tzelem Elokim, a soul created in the image of G-d.  What is this 'Image of G-d' to be used for?  Like G-d, we have inherent holiness and dignity.  A mole's mission statement is to burrow.  Our mission statement is to live in such a way that reflects our Creator by acting with the inherent holiness and dignity with which we were created.  Can you dig it?

Parshas Beshalach  Exodus 13:17 -- 17:16
As the Jewish people leave the land of Egypt, Pharaoh's heart is once again hardened.  The Egyptian army pursues the former slaves, trapping them on the shores of the Red Sea.   Moses raises his hand over the sea, miraculously parting the waters and allowing the Jewish people to pass through safely.  Pursued by the Egyptians into the sea, Moses once again raises his hand and the waters come crashing down upon Pharaoh's army.  Awed by this indisputable miracle, Moses leads the Jewish people in the Shir Shel Yam, a song of praise to G-d acknowledging a debt of gratitude for their remarkable salvation.
After traveling from the Red Sea, and following the miraculous sweetening of the bitter waters at Marah, the Jewish people complain to Moses and Aaron that they have no food to eat.  G-d responds by providing a great test of faith;  a daily ration of manna fell from the sky for forty years every morning, except for Shabbos.  Some suggest that the manna was the greatest miracle the Jewish people ever experienced.   A constant water source is also given when G-d commands Moses to strike a rock, miraculously causing water to flow from it.  The portion concludes with the nation of Amalek's unprovoked sneak attack and the Jewish people's victory.

Rabbinic Ruminations

Do women cry more than men?  Dr. William Frey, a biochemist and director of the Dry Eye and Tear Research Center in Minneapolis says "yes."   Dr. Frey worked with 331 volunteers, aged 18 to 75, asking them to keep a "tear diary" for 30 days.  Women reported crying four to five times more than men during this period.   It is of interest that studies show no difference in crying patterns between boys and girls until the age of puberty. But by the time they are eighteen women cry on average about 5.3 times a month compared to a man's 1.4 times per month.
When women chop onions, their crying may be unavoidable.  However, the Talmud says that one should always be heedful of wronging his wife, because she is easily hurt and her tears are frequent.  A wife is the source of blessing for her husband; she is the vessel for the husband’s blessings and in her the blessings are found.   Rabbi Chaim Vital, one of the great kabbalists, said, "A man's soul is judged in the next world according to how he treated his wife."

It's been said that to get a woman's heart, a man must first use his own.  Men - be careful to not cause women to cry.


Quote of the Week

Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out -- Vaclav Havel, Czech playwright and President of Czechoslovakia (1989-92)


Joke of the Week
The Israelis and Arabs decided to settle their dispute with one dog fight. They would have five years to breed the best fighting dog in the world and which ever side’s dog won would be granted their own terms of victory.   After five years the Arabs bred the meanest dog the world had ever seen.  Its cage needed steel bars that were five inches thick and nobody could get near it.
When the day came for the dog fight, the Israelis showed up with a strange animal.  It was a nine foot long Dachshund.   When the cages were opened up, the Dachshund came out of its cage and slowly waddled over towards the Arab dog. The Arab dog snarled and leaped out of its cage and charged the Israeli Dachshund. But, when it got close the Dachshund opened its mouth and swallowed the Arab dog in one bite.
The Arabs came up to the Israelis shaking their heads in disbelief. “We don’t understand how this could have happened. We spent five years breeding the meanest dog in the world."
“That’s nothing”, the Israelis replied. “We had our best plastic surgeons working for five years to make an alligator look like a Dachshund.”

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