Lag BaOmer - Loneliness and Community

This week's portion, Emor, gives the laws of the counting of the Omer.  From the night after the first day of Passover we count seven weeks, forty-nine days.  Each evening at nightfall, we say a blessing and then count: "today is ____ days, which is ____ weeks and ____ days of the Omer."  When we reach forty-nine days which is seven weeks, we prepare for the next evening, the festival of Shavuot.  Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah.  By counting, we link Passover, the festival of freedom, with Shavuot, the festival of revelation.  
Even though every night has its own unique number, not all nights are created equal.  One of those nights is Lag BaOmer, literally the 33rd night of the Omer.  Traditionally it is a day of celebration, a day for haircuts (especially little boys when they are three years old) and weddings.  There is also a tradition of campfires, which one sees all over Israel on Lag B'Omer.   Finally, Lag B'Omer is the anniversary of the death …

The Secret to Our Greatness©

Parashat Tzav - Shabbat HaGadol 5778/2018 The Secret to Our Greatness© Rabbi David Baum, Congregation Shaarei Kodesh
A couple of months ago, I officiated at a wedding for a young Shaarei Kodesh couple.The wedding was planned to a tee, every scenario was taken into consideration.It was an outdoor wedding in winter in Boca Raton - it never rains in the winter.As I got to the hotel, the rain started coming.Even my weather app was confused - it said no 0% chance of precipitation.So we waited, and waited, and the guests sat outside through the drizzle.Finally, they started coming in, and I’ll never forget what happened next.A senior woman in a walker came up to me in a huff, “Are you the rabbi?”I said, “Yes, I am.”She answered, “It’s raining out there, do something!!!”I said, “Ma’am, as a rabbi, I might have some powers, but controlling the weather isn’t one of them!”
I bring this up because just this week because a D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr. posted the video to his official Face…

Is Silence is Golden?© - Words before the March For Our Lives

Is Silence is Golden?© Parashat Vayikra, 2018/5778 Rabbi David Baum, Congregation Shaarei Kodesh
There is an old saying, silence is golden, which surely is not a Jewish statement. If anything, Jews are anything but silent. I will never forget the first time my wife (who wasn't my wife at the time) came to my home for a big family dinner. In the middle of dinner, she asked for ear plugs and renamed us the loud family. Unfortunately, I couldn't hear her.
But honestly, our tradition does think that silence can be Golden. But, on the other hand, silence can also actually be harmful. The book of Leviticus opens up with the virtue of silence. וַיִּקְרָ֖א אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֑ה וַיְדַבֵּ֤ר יְי אֵלָ֔יו מֵאֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵ֖ד לֵאמֹֽר׃ The LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying: Here is the situation – the Mishkan is completed – it has been dedicated, so now, what's next?
What's puzzling in this very first sentence, God calls out to Moses, and then, …

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…