Shaarei Shamayim

A Place of Comfort, Companionship and Healing




How many of you remember the once popular song, “Little Things Mean A Lot?” My mother used to sing it to me when I was little boy. It was written by Edith Lindeman and Carl Stutz in the 1950’s and popularized by the song stylist, Kitty Kallen. It has a simple, yet powerful message as seen in the closing lyrics:

            Give me a hand when I’ve lost the way

            Give me your shoulder to cry on

            Whether the day is bright or gray

Give me your heart to rely on

Send me the warmth of a secret smile

To show me you haven’t forgot

For now and forever, that’s always and ever

Honey, little things mean a lot

It’s the message that love is shown more by the everyday small caring behaviors we do for each other—even something as simple as a smile—than by the occasional grand gestures.


A similar theme can be said about numbers of people. It’s not necessarily the large groups of people who change the world, but more often, it’s the small dedicated and focused groups who share a dream. We see that clearly today in the rise of today’s technology that has changed the world. Steve Jobs’ Apple and Bill Gates’ Microsoft are prime examples of small groups that have changed the world.


Yesterday, Facebook released its much anticipated IPO—initial public offering—valuing the company at over $100 billion. Considering Mark Zuckerberg began the company only 8 years ago, this is nothing short of astounding. (Do you think he would like to name a shule after one of his grandfathers?) Facebook currently brings together over 900 million active users. That’s about the population of the world 200 years ago!    

We Jews may be few in number, but we have had a far greater impact on the world than any other people—giving the world the Bible and its major religions. And today, as I pointed out in my Yom Haatzmaut sermon, Israel has enriched the world with its startup companies and technology far beyond its numbers. Almost every computer, smart phone and tablet is built upon technology from Israel. Its recent advances in medicine, science, agriculture and the environment are to marvel at. This is all in fulfillment of the blessings in today’s 2nd Torah portion—Bechukotai.


Bechukotai begins with a list of blessings and curses. It’s somewhat surprising that the curses far outnumber the blessings. Apparently curses and threats may be more effective motivators than the promise of blessings. Still, the blessings are powerful and convincing. We are promised fertility, well-being and prosperity. We’re told that there will be peace and security. If only we would obey Gd’s commandments. It’s no accident that these blessings begin with the letter aleph—the 1st letter of the alef-bet in the word, im—and they end with the letter taf—the final letter of the alef-bet, in the word komimiut. The point is that although list of blessings may be short, it’s all inclusive of everything from alef to taf, from A to Z.


Of all the blessings in this passage, however, the most surprising may be: “5 of you shall pursue a 100 and a 100 of you will give chase to 10,000: your enemies shall fall before you by the sword” (Lev. 26:8). Tomorrow is Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day—the day in the 1967 6-Day War when Jerusalem was liberated. And the juxtaposition of this special day tomorrow and this verse we read in today’s Torah portion reminds me of an old joke about that war:

A platoon of Egyptians were camping out in the Sinai (which was also liberated in the war) when an old Israeli codger came wandering over the nearest sand dune cursing at the Egyptians. The platoon commander ordered one of his soldiers to take the man back over the dune and “get rid” of him. As the 2 men disappeared from sight there was a scuffle and soon the old man returned alone cursing and waving his fist at the Egyptians.

This time the commander sent 2 soldiers. They went over the sand dune; there was a scuffle and again the old man returned by himself!

A bit alarmed the commander now sent 10 men with the old Jew. Again there was a scuffle and the alter Yid came back again all alone.

So the commander now sent 25 men to escort the old Jew out of the vicinity. Once again there was a scuffle…this time one badly bruised soldier came crawling back over the dune, yelling, “Captain, Captain, run! It’s a trick! There are 2 of them!”


Yes, Israel is few in number, but those few are nevertheless very potent. Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, founder and head of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem—that is now preparing for the rebuilding of the Temple by making some of the objects like the menorah, the vessels, implements and garments need in the Temple service—gave an interview this week to the Jerusalem Post. During the interview he described what it was like when he was a paratrooper, participating in the liberation of Jerusalem during the 6-Day War. One of the amazing things he spoke about was that he personally witnessed 2,000 captured Jordanian legionnaires cowering as they were being guarded by only one IDF (Israel Defense Force) soldier. He then quoted this verse from our parsha that, “5 of you shall pursue a 100 and a 100 of you will give chase to 10,000,” and said, “I saw this verse being fulfilled before my very own eyes.” 


If you pay careful attention to the curses, you will see that every one of them happened in Jewish history. We have experienced all the curses—the exile, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the pogroms, the Holocaust. Now it’s time to drink from the cup of blessing!


We live in a time when the fate of Jerusalem is in jeopardy. Rabbi Chaim Richman of the Temple Institute and said in that article: “Efforts are being waged by the forces of Islam today to delegitimize the Jewish connection to Israel and Jerusalem. And on the Temple Mount in particular, they are trying to remove all vestiges of Jewish history.” The Palestinians now say that the Holy Temple never existed—despite all the physical evidence and despite what it says in the Bible and even in the New Testament. And of course, Jerusalem is in jeopardy because of the ever growing nuclear threat from Iran.


King Solomon built the 1st Temple in Jerusalem 3,000 years ago. We sat at the waters of Babylon in our exile centuries later vowing, “If I forget Thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand lose its cunning.” 3 times a day during our long and painful exile—no matter where we were—we turned to Jerusalem and prayed for its restoration. Twice a year at the end of the Pesach Seder and Yom Kipper we proclaimed: L’shana habaa BiY’rushalayim, “Next year in Jerusalem.” We end every Jewish wedding with the breaking of a glass, showing that even at the moment of our highest personal joy, our joy is muted by the remembrance of the destruction of Jerusalem, which like the glass, had been shattered. We have done all this for centuries. Now that Jerusalem is finally ours, do we allow the world to question our rights to sovereignty over our holy city?  


Jerusalem is the physical capital of Israel and it is our spiritual center. Let us never take that for granted. We have returned—never to leave again! We have lived through and suffered all of the curses. It’s time for the blessings. It’s time for Jerusalem to shine forth as a beacon of light to a darkened world. Ki miTziyon teytzey Torah, udvar Hashem miY’rushalayim, “For the Torah shall go forth from Zion and the word of Gd from Jerusalem.” Let us proclaim as Jews have proclaimed for 2,000 years of exile, L’shana habaa biY’rushaliyim, “Next year and the year after until the end of time in Jerusalem.” Amen!


                                                Rabbi Mark Hillel Kunis



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