|Beyond Twelve Gates-Behar-Bechukosai II|
|Written by Rabbi Ze'ev Smason|
Since kindergarten, 17-year-old high-school senior Ciara Cetraro hasn't missed a day of school. That's more than 2,000 days of showing up for every day of school. And perhaps most impressive of all: She did it living in Hawaii, which is known for its "epidemic" of chronic absenteeism. Ciara's consistency puts her in some famous company. Baseball's all-time Iron Man, Cal Ripken, Jr., holds the record for games played in a row: lacing up for 2,632 consecutive games over more than 16 years. And despite a recent illness, "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest has shown up for every installment of the show over its ongoing 11-year run.
Ciara has not only had perfect attendance, but the Konawaena High School senior is one of her class valedictorians, president and treasurer of the school's National Honor Society chapter, captain of the cheerleading squad, senior class vice president and Environmental Club vice president. "I never did this for the recognition or awards," Ciara said. "School is very important to me and I like it. I've always been afraid of possibly missing something. I just wanted to try my best, learn as much as I can and continually improve myself. By not missing a single day of school, I get the opportunity to build on and broaden my knowledge."
At times, our culture seems to encourage us to look for immediate results. "Lose 30 pounds in 30 days." "Turn $1,000 into $100,000 in just minutes a day." In Torah, as with most things in life, there is no free lunch. The Talmud says, "If someone tells you, 'I haven't toiled, yet I have acquired (Torah knowledge) - don't believe him." Consistent hard work is crucial not only to the study of Torah, but in general, to success in life. Every day, all day -- give it all you've got.
Parshas Behar /Bechukosai Leviticus 25:1 -- 27:34
Behar focuses primarily on mitzvos concerning the land of Israel, beginning with the command to observe a Sabbatical (Shemitta) year. During the Sabbatical year one's fields are to remain uncultivated every seventh year, refraining from the normal cycle of planting and harvesting. Similarly, the land in Israel is to remain unworked in the Jubilee (Yovel) or 50th year, at which time ownership of all land automatically returns to its ancestral heritage. A quote found on the Liberty Bell, "And you should sanctify the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land ..." is taken from the passage describing the Jubilee year. Behar also speaks about the poor and downtrodden. Not only are we commanded to give them tzedaka and do acts of loving kindness for them, but ideally we are to provide them with the means to raise themselves out of their poverty-stricken state.
Bechukosai, the last Torah portion in the book of Leviticus, begins by briefly listing some of the blessings and rewards that the Jewish people will receive for diligently learning and following the Torah. The Portion then shifts to the subject matter which has made it famous -- G-d's admonitions and warnings of the consequences if the Jewish people abandon the Torah. Step by step, the Torah describes the tragedies which will befall the Jewish people if they abandon observance of the Torah, providing an eerie account of what has been part of our history to this day. There is good news, however; teshuva (return, or repentance) is possible at any time to avert an otherwise harsh decree. The book of Leviticus concludes with a brief discussion of tithes.
The Eastgate Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe, the country’s largest office and shopping complex, is an architectural marvel. The complex has no conventional air-conditioning or heating, yet stays regulated year round with dramatically less energy consumption using design methods inspired by -- the self-cooling mounds of African termites! Biomimicry is the examination of Nature to emulate or take inspiration from in order to solve human problems. An early example of biomimicry was the study of birds to enable human flight. The Wright Brothers derived inspiration for creating and flying the first airplane in 1903 from observations of pigeons in flight.
Termites in Zimbabwe build gigantic mounds -- some, as high as 20 feet -- inside of which they farm a fungus that is their primary food source. The fungus must be kept at exactly 87 degrees, while temperatures outside range from 35 degrees at night to 104 degrees during the day. The termites achieve this remarkable feat by constantly opening and closing a series of heating and cooling vents throughout the mound over the course of the day. With a system of carefully adjusted convection currents, air is sucked in at the lower part of the mound, down into enclosures with muddy walls, and up through a channel to the peak of the termite mound. Thousands of tiny, industrious termites constantly dig new vents and plug up old ones in order to regulate the temperature.
The Eastgate Centre uses less than 10% of the energy of a conventional building its size. These efficiencies translate directly to the bottom line: Eastgate’s owners have saved millions of dollars because of an air-conditioning system that did not have to be implemented. Eastgate's architects and builders, through biomimicry, learned from the termite -- but who taught the termite how to build?
The Psalmist says, “The heavens declare the glory of G-d; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world." (Psalm 19) Nature is a great proof of G-d's existence.
Quote of the Week
What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner -- Sidone-Gabrielle Colette, French Novelist (1873 - 1954)
Joke of the Week
A horseplayer gets up one morning and notices that his digital clock radio reads 5:55. He goes out for breakfast and the bill comes to $5.55. He gets his morning paper and sees that yesterday's winning lottery number was 555. Figuring he's on to something, the superstitious gambler gets on a bus to go to his bank. The number on the bus is 555. The bus drops him off at his bank at 555 Main Street where the horseplayer fills out a withdrawal slip with the number 555 on it. The player withdraws $555.
Next, the man hails a cab to the track. The number of the taxi is 555 and the fare to the track is $5.55. He pays $5 to enter the track through window number 5. The man sits out some races before he bets $555 on the 5 horse in the 5th. The horse goes off at a robust 55/1 and opens up a 5-length lead, maintaining it until deep stretch when half the field rallies. The man watches with horror as ......his horse finishes fifth.