Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.
People I meet occasionally raise an eyebrow in surprise when they discover I
grew up in Los Angeles. When I jokingly tell them I moved to St. Louis
for the weather, they smile - particularly during this cold, snowy
winter. However, when we think about it, happiness means more than warm
A London-based think tank recently rated the happiest countries in the
world. From 110 countries covering 90% of the world's population, Norway,
Denmark and Finland were the three top-rated countries -- none of which are
known for having Los Angeles-like weather. Consider for a moment: What
does happiness mean to you?
Many feel that happiness is dependent upon having enough money to do what
you want and buy what you want. A nice home, food,
clothes, car, leisure. Upon further reflection, though, we all
know individuals who have all of those things and more but aren't particularly
happy. It's possible to be a miserable millionaire in Maui, or to be a
person of modest means who is happy and content in St. Louis -- even in
January. Upon what, then, is happiness dependent?
"Who is wealthy? The one who is happy with his
lot." (Ethics of the Fathers). The
ability to count and appreciate your blessings, whatever they may be, is the
key to true happiness.
Parshas Mishpatim Exodus 21:1 -- 24:18
Following on the heels of the Ten Commandments, this week's Torah portion deals
primarily with civil law. Like the realm of the ceremonial, our worldly
and common activities must be infused with holiness and observed
carefully. Included among the civil laws discussed in the portion are;
penalties for causing bodily injury to another person and damaging his
property; laws regarding borrowers; the mitzvah to show sensitivity to the poor
and to offer them free loans; and laws relating to the honest dispensation of
justice. After mentioning the mitzvos of
Shabbos and Shemittah (the Sabbatical year), the
portion continues with a brief discussion of the three pilgrimage festivals --
Pesach, Shevous and Sukkos.
The Torah then returns to the revelation at Mt. Sinai. The Jewish people
declare their commitment to do whatever G-d commands with the famous phrase
"Everything G-d has said, we will do and we will listen." The
portion concludes with Moses' ascending the mountain, where he will remain for
forty days and forty nights to receive the rest of the Torah.
Saudi Arabian authorities have announced that they are ready to release a
vulture being held under suspicion of spying for Israel. The erstwhile
feathered Mossad Agent was apprehended wearing a GPS
transmitter and a ring etched with the words "Tel Aviv University."
The GPS and ring were connected to the bird as part of an
long-term project by Israeli scientists that follows vultures' location and
altitude for research purposes.
The arrest of the vulture came several weeks after an Egyptian official
voiced the suspicion that a shark that attacked tourists off the Sinai shore
was also acting on behalf of Mossad. The incidents
may reflect a growing irrational hysteria among Arabs surrounding Israel's
military prowess and the efficacy of its intelligence services, possibly fueled
by the Stuxnet virus' success.
Vultures and sharks acting as Israeli secret agents may be as unlikely as
the Chicago Cubs ever winning the World Series. On the other hand, while
the full effect of Stuxnet isn't fully known, it
seems certain that the computer virus did disrupt Iran's nuclear enrichment
program. Credit must be given where credit is due. To whom is
credit really due? Israel? The United States?
As we read in the Passover Haggadah, "In each
and every generation they rise up against us to destroy us. And The Holy One,
blessed be He, rescues us from their hands."
Quote of the Week
All my possessions for a moment of time - last words of Elizabeth I - Queen
of England (d.1603)
Joke of the Week
During World War II, a sergeant stationed at Fort Benning,
Georgia, gets a telephone call from a woman. "We would love it," she
said, "if you could bring five of your soldiers over to our house for
"Certainly, ma'am," replied the sergeant.
"Oh... just make sure they aren't Jews, of course," said the woman.
"Will do," replied the sergeant. So, that Thanksgiving, while the
woman is baking, the doorbell rings. She opens her door and, to her horror,
five black soldiers are standing in front of her.
"Oh, my!" she exclaimed. "I'm afraid there's been a terrible
"No ma'am," said one of the soldiers. "Sergeant Rosenbloom never makes mistakes!"
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Gates, please share with a friend. Thanks to Alan Haber for his assistance in