A Sea of Lights, A River of Tears

Journey to Shabbat Terumah 

A Sea of Lights, A River of Tears

Last night, I attended the sunset vigil that the city of Parkland organized as a response to the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School that took 17 innocent lives, teens and teachers, where scores of others were physically injured, where thousands are emotionally and spiritually scarred. I did not know what to expect, how many people would show up? What would the atmosphere would be like? Thankfully, I was able to meet up with some of our chaverim/congregants in the field last night. There were thousands of people who showed up with little notice (I heard reports of 8,000). Together we prayed, we sang, we listened to tributes by parents and teens, by politicians and faith leaders, and together, we lit up the night. As the sun came down, and the darkness overtook us, there was a sea of lights, and river of tears. There are no words that can do justice to describe how we are all feeling during these last two days, …

Parashat Mishpatim - Being a 'Buddy' to a Stranger by Bat Mitzvah Maddy Kristol

Parashat Mishpatim - Being a 'Buddy' to a Stranger 5778/2018 by Maddy Kristol

Who in here loves rules?  I thought so.

My Torah portion Mishpatim, from the book of Exodus contains 53 commandments or mitzvot in it, more mitzvot than any other parashah in the book of Exodus.  All the biblical stories so far in the Torah have been nice, but now it is time to create a Jewish society. This parashah is also known as “the book of the covenant” and it is mostly concerned with how Israelite society should function.   So, we read about a lot of rules, and I have to be honest, I’m not too crazy about rules.  But, there was one commandment that really struck a chord with me:  how to treat strangers. The Torah mentions the rules about how to treat a stranger 36 times and 2 times in my torah portion. This rule is repeated more than any other rule in the Torah.

Exodus 22:20 states:

You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

What does it mean to …

The Plague of Darkness and Addiction© – Parashat Bo

The Plague of Darkness and Addiction© – Parashat Bo Rabbi David Baum, Congregation Shaarei Kodesh

Who in here is proud of the term the Chosen People – what does it mean to you?

There's an old joke in Fiddler on the Roof, as they are being kicked out of Anatekva, Tevya looks up and says to God, Tevye: “I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?”

The Chosen People – double-edged sword – makes us feel special and important, but also, we are held to a higher standard.  

This week, our community heard from a mother and son, Lisa and Jacob Hillman, speak about their story of addiction.  I learned about Lisa through an article she read for the Jewish Forward where she spoke about her situation with her son Jacob who became an addict.  Here's an excerpt from the article:

“When that first phone call came early in Jacob’s senior year of high school, I thought for sure the teacher had the wrong kid. “Lisa,” this respected adviser said, “…

The Names Before And After Us©

The Names Before And After Us© Shemot 5778/2018  Rabbi David Baum
How many synagogue members does it take to screw in a light bulb?  One to screw it in, and one to make a plaque thanking all those who made the light bulb possible.  It's not just synagogues that have a name inscription obsession. 

Who in here ever carved their name on a tree or on a bunk in summer camp – so and so was here?

Just last week, we were sleeping in bunks at Camp Ramah Darom's Winter Break family.  As I looked up, what did I see?  The names of campers from back in history, Rachel (or fill in the blank) was here.

Why can’t we resist putting our names on things?

There’s a reason for our obsession with putting our names on things – it’s what I want to talk about today.

Today’s parashah is also the name of the book.  The rabbis called it Sefer Yetiziyat Mitzraim, the book of the Exodus from Egypt, but it’s known to us by a different name – Shmot – names.

This week’s parashah opens up with the following n…

The Lights of Hanukah Must Stay With Us!

There is a famous debate in the Talmud between Hillel and Shammai - how should we light the Hanukah candles for the 8 days of Hanukah?  Shammai said, on the first day, we should start with eight candles, and on each successive day, we should take away a candle.  His reasoning was solid - he brought up the fact that Hanukah and Sukkot are connected, and the sacrifices that were made in the Holy Temple diminish every day. Hillel responds with his approach - we start with one candle on the first night, and on the second night we add another candle, and so on.  On the eighth night, we have a total of nine candles (eight candles plus the Shamash); and his reasoning?  It wasn't a quote from the Bible, it was a statement, "we increase in holiness, and never diminish from it."  As we all know, Hillel won the argument, and on the eighth night of Hanukah, I found myself lighting a huge Hanukiah at Boca Center with eight other rabbis in the community from the Reform, Conservative,…

The Voice of Dinah© Parashat Vayishlach

The Voice of Dinah© - Parashat Vayishlach 2017/5778 Rabbi David Baum
I have to admit, I have a bit of a weakness for selfies with famous people – I call them – famous Jewish selfies – you can see them on my Facebook and Instagram feeds.Like my pictures a number of years ago with Brett Ratner, the famous Jewish movie producer and mogul; or my picture with the former comedian and Senator Al Franken.Well, what to do now?I didn’t take them down – I just added two letters – 'in' – as in, infamous Jewish selfies. Of course, as Jews, we are part of a larger culture, and this week, another famous person became infamous.We are a Today show household, so it was interesting to turn on the television this week and not see Matt Lauer, the latest in a series of celebrities, politicians, and other public figures accused of workplace sexual harassment and now, as now know, sexual violence against women.
And I thought about my infamous selfies.The question I asked is, should I erase them?And this …

Some Immediate Reflections On U.S. Change in Policy Toward Jerusalem

Some Immediate Reflections On U.S. Change in Policy Toward Jerusalem (This is a Facebook post I wrote just an hour after President Trump's speech on Jerusalem) I happened to have been at my home watching television during President Trump’s declaration with our pest control person who’s been with us for the last 8 years. We’ve talked about the best way to kill roaches and ants, our family lives, but never about geo-politics. As the news spread on television, he asked me, what are your thoughts on this statement? As a rabbi, I know I am not an expert in Middle East politics, but it dawned on me that to him, I am an expert, and if my pest guy is asking me, is America recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital a good thing or a bad thing, I imagine many others will. It was hard to explain to him how I feel in a short sentence, so I thought about it a great deal. First, emotionally, as a Jew who loves Israel, who has lived in Jerusalem for two years of my life, and who invokes Jerusalem i…