Selected Sermon/Article
2011-01-21 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Yisro

Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates. 

So rare is the man of truth that legend has the aged Diogenes searching for him with lanterns.   A more recent story is told of a man who purchased a hat in a Boro Park store.  A few days later, he returned there to have his initials stamped into the hat. The owner recognized him as the man who had bought the hat a few days earlier, and promptly gave him five dollars.  "I'm so glad you came back," he said.  "After you bought your hat, we received a notice from the supplier that we had been quoted the wrong price, and the hats were actually cheaper than we were first told.  I had charged you based on the wrong price. The actual price should have been five dollars less!"  The man's joy at being able to do the right and honest thing was tangible.

A rabbi who heard this story was so excited by this rare display of truthfulness and honesty that he immediately called a close friend of his to relate what occurred.  Listening to the story, his friend responded perceptively, "Isn't it sad that we live in a generation for which this is such a rare and beautiful story."    When one who is honestly mistaken hears the truth, he will either quit being mistaken, or cease to be honest.

Parshas Yisro      Exodus 18:1 -- 20:23

Yisro begins with Moses' father-in-law, Yisro, arriving at the Jewish people's camp in the desert, where he is greeted warmly by a large entourage.  Yisro was inspired to join them when he heard about all of the wonders and miracles which G-d performed for the Jewish people during the exodus from Egypt.  Upon witnessing Moses serving as the people's sole judge from dawn until dusk, Yisro declares that this system will never work.  He therefore suggests that subordinate judges be appointed to adjudicate the lower cases.  Moses agrees to this plan.

The Jewish people arrive at Mt. Sinai (the mountain, not the hospital) and prepare to receive the Torah.  Moses ascends the mountain and G-d tells him to convey to the people that they will be to Him a treasure from amongst the nations.  After three days of preparation, the appointed moment of revelation finally arrives.  Amidst thunder, lightning and the sound of the shofar, G-d descends upon the mountain and proclaims -- with the entire Jewish people listening -- the Ten Commandments.  Moses then ascends the mountain to receive the remainder of the Torah from G-d, both the written and oral segments.  The portion concludes with several mitzvos concerning the construction of the altar in the Temple . 

Rabbinic Ruminations

Against all odds, all of the children of Carol and Rollie Camis (USA) were born on the same day, February 20: Catherine in 1952, Caroline in 1953, Charles in 1956, Claudia in 1961 and Cecilia in 1966.  The chances that 5 siblings will be born on the same day are about 1 in 18 billion, which is a number 3 times the number of people in the world.  The 29th of February falls once every 4 years. Against all odds, the 3 children of the Anderson family (Norway) were all born on February 29: Heidi (1960), Olav (1964) and Martin (1968).  On July 4, American Independence Day, Ralph Williams was born in North Carolina.  Against all odds, his father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all born on the same day.

Over 300 years ago, King Louis XIV of France asked Blaise Pascal, the famed Christian philosopher, to give him proof of G-d.  Pascal answered, "Why the Jews, your Majesty, the Jews!"

That the Jewish nation — a tiny group of people — have survived two thousand years of exile and persecution is nothing short of a supernatural phenomenon.  Pascal wasn’t the only one  amazed by the survival of the Jewish people. Other thinkers, philosophers and historians have noticed something unusual about the Jews.  Mark Twain, an agnostic and self-acknowledged skeptic, penned this in 1899 in Harper’s Magazine: "All things are mortal, but the Jew.  All other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”

In the Torah, G-d promised that we will always survive.  Attaching oneself to the Jewish people, or to some significant part of it, means attaching oneself to eternity.  We are an Am Olam,  an eternal people.  And we're still here -- against all odds.

Quote of the Week

Get it all on record now - get the films - get the witnesses - because somewhere down the road of history some b*****d will get up and say that this never happened   -- Dwight D. Eisenhower, upon finding victims of the death camps in WW 2


Joke of the Week

A foreign chieftain flew to the United States to visit the President. When he arrived at the airport, he was met by a host of newsmen and television cameramen.  One of the reporters asked the Chief if he had a comfortable flight. The Chief made a series of weird noises...."screech, scratch, honk, buzz, whistle, z-z-z-z-"...and then added in perfect English, "Yes, I had a very nice flight."

Another reporter asked, "Chief, do you plan to visit the Washington Monument while you're in the area?  The Chief made the same noises..."screech, scratch, honk, buzz, whistle, z-z-z-z"...and then said, "Yes, and I also plan to visit the White House and the Capitol Building."

"Where did you learn to speak such flawless English?" asked the next reporter.

The Chief replied, "Screech, scratch, honk, buzz, whistle, z-z-z-z...from the short-wave radio."

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