Showing posts from 2012

A Response To The Tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut

(Links which I spoke about during this message can be found toward the bottom of the post),
Shalom Shaarei Kodesh 
Last week, on the 7th night of Hanukah, as we lit those candle which were supposed to bring us joy, we all felt the opposite feeling; a deep sense of pain and sorrow after the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.  Before I continue, I wanted to teach a small piece of halacha/Jewish law regarding how we as Jews mourn and how we get through difficult events and times.
After a loved one passes away, no matter the circumstances, the immediate family sitsshiva. Shiva is just a word that means seven, meaning that the family sits down in their home for seven days and lets the community come to them to fulfill the great mitzvah of Nichum Avelim, comforting mourners.
The laws of a shiva house are interesting. We are told that when we enter a home, we are forbidden from making ‘small talk’ with the mourners. Our tradition tells us that we should sit in sile…

Election Day Reflections 2012

Sometimes, you have to take a step back and realize the amazing gifts we have and the miracles that we experience everyday.  In the Modim paragraph of the Amidah, we say these words three times a day, everyday of the year, "We thank You and praise You for our lives that are in Your hand, for our souls that are in Your charge, for Your miracles that daily attend us, and for Your wonders and gifts that accompany us evening, morning, and noon."

I want to tell you about a moment when I realized a miracle that daily attends to us.  Two days ago, we had dinner my parents and my paternal grandfather, who was born on the same day as I was, but in a much different place, and a much different time.  My grandfather, a survivor of the Holocaust from Czechoslovakia, has told me first hand how special this country has been for our family.  Here, we have the right to be equal citizens and to take an active role in choosing our leaders in government.  These are not things to take for grant…

A Dvar Torah for membership season!

Parashat Vayeshev Years ago, before Rabbinical School, I was at a conference with a friend of mine who was working for Ramah as a recruiter.  We had a great time at the conference and we met some very interesting people.  I remember there was one girl who we met who had tattoos and body piercings all over her, and she talked to my friend and became interested in Ramah.  Dani gave her some information, we both told her about our experience at Ramah, and we went on our way.  About a year later, my friend Dani called me and she told me an interesting follow up.  She told me that she was at another conference and she saw that girl again, and the girl looked at her and started crying.  She told my friend Dani that meeting her at that conference brought her to Ramah and changed her life.  She told Dani that Dani was an angel.  When Dani told me this, we both started laughing.  One of us, an angel?!?  Has anyone met someone, you don’t even have to know their name, who later turned out to …

Teach Your Children…© Parashat Eikev by Rabbi David Baum

Teach “Your” Children…© by Rabbi David Baum written in August of 2009

A lot can change in just one week.  One week ago, I had only one exemption on my tax forms.  One week ago, I was cooking for two.  One week ago, my house was an adult’s playhouse, no toys to be seen. 
But two days in the hospital, and Alissa and I drove home with a new addition to the family, formerly Baby Boy Baum, now Avraham Yaakov, or as we call him, our little Avi.  One week ago, when I read the V’ahavta paragraph of the Shema, I focused on the idea of my personal relationship with God.  It is no coincidence that the first paragraph of the Shema was read last week in parashat V’etchanan and it is written in the singular tense.  I would often times gloss over certain parts of the Shema because they did not pertain to me.  “V’shinantem Levanecha” – instruct your children about them (these words). 
Suddenly, as I read the second paragraph of the Shema, I see the mention of guiding your children again.  This ti…

9 days as a Vegetarian - Reflections on the first nine days of Av

For the last week or so, Morningstar farms products and Cholula hot sauce have been my best friends.  No, I have not converted from being a carnivore (I'm way too weak!), rather I was observing the practices associated with the first nine days of the Jewish month of Av.  Here is a description from the new Rabbinical Assembly publication, The Observant Life: The Wisdom of Conservative Judaism for Contemporary Jews:

The days between Rosh Ḥodesh Av and the Ninth of Av are called the Nine Days and are called the Nine Days and are characterized by the rabbinic dictum: “When Av begins, our joy is diminished” (M Ta·anit 4:6). Except on Shabbat, it is customary to refrain from eating meat and drinking wine during this nine-day period (SA Oraḥ Ḥayyim 551:9, where several variants of this custom are listed). The reason for both prohibitions is simply that meat and wine are commonly associated in our tradition with joy and celebration. 

These nine days were a great challenge for me as I am u…

Swimming with your children: Father's Day 2012

Perhaps the most known piece of Rabbinic literuature that speaks about the responsibilities of a father to his children can be found in the Babylonian Talmud (Kiddushin).

"The father is required to Circumcise his son; to redeem him [referring to the first-born son, as per the Biblical passages in Numbers 18: 15-16]; to teach him Torah; to assure that he marries; and to teach him a trade. Some say he must also teach him to swim. Rabbi Judah says, whoever does not teach his son a trade teaches him robbery 

In the mishnah, the rabbis agree that a father should teach his son a trade.  This is probably in order for his son to be self sufficient.  Perhaps this is more about self preservation, I mean, you love your children, but by the time he is 40, one would hope that he is not still living on your couch if he can actually work!  

Why did only some say that a father should teach his child how to swim?  Perhaps it was because it was redundant.  The text already said that you should teach …

Children of Adam and Eve

Children of Adam and Eve by Rabbi David Baum
I saw the most beautiful thing this week at morning minyan at the Rabbinical Assembly convention.  A former teacher of mine brought her daughter, who she adopted, to the morning minyan (they are not the people in the above picture).  Her daughter is two years old, and she held her close to her in a baby bjorn, which is not an easy thing to do!  This woman adopted this baby and I am sure she had to work long and hard as the process is not easy.  Her baby is of a different ethnicity, but it made no difference - you could see that they were connected by a strong bond of love that was palpable.  I felt like I was witnessing literal holiness in my midst, the fulfilling of the famous statement in the Torah,  "ועשו לי מקדש, ושכנתי בתוכם’ "Build me a sanctuary, and I will dwell among you."  
At one point, her daughter looked into her mothers eyes, and touched her mother’s tefillin on her head.  I was so captivated by this tender ima…

Text Teaching from the Rabbinical Assembly Convention

I feel blessed to have been asked to teach my colleagues and teachers at the opening plenary of the Rabbinical Assembly.  I was asked by Rabbi Josh Heller to teach a text that I was very passionate about, and I could not have thought of a more perfect text.  It is from the Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 85b.  I was honored to teach with some of my colleagues, Rabbis Menachem Creditor, Ellen Wolintz-Fields, and Elana Zelony.

I will update this blog with some more details about my experience teaching, but until then, enjoy the teachings from my

The text I taught:

Our son’s name: Harrison Eytan Baum (Hebrew – Naphtali Eytan Ben HaRav David Zalman V’Aliza Bracha)

This speech was given at our son's brit milah on February 29th, 2012 Our son’s name:Harrison Eytan Baum (Hebrew – Naphtali Eytan Ben HaRav David Zalman V’Aliza Bracha)
Alissa Baum: 
“Harry Solom, your great grand-father, whom we all affectionately referred to as “Pop-pop” was born in 1922 in Bailey's Harbor, MI to Russian immigrant parents, Rebecca and Arthur. He was the 5 of 7 children and was the youngest boy. Pop-pop grew up on a cattle farm. He did not have a very wealthy upbringing but he learned to be independent, skilled, and had a drive for success that was unrelenting. Because he was the youngest boy and was not able to fight in the war, he remained at home until age 16 and then traveled to Detroit to find work and build a sense of self. He first worked at a fish market but later sought out employment from the owner of a package and liquor store, who would later become his father-in-law. During these first years in Detroit, my grandfather took up the sport of boxing, wh…

A Born Again Jew - Parashat Beshalach

(I delivered this Dvar Torah at Shaarei Kodesh in 2010, but I think it's still relevant)
What do we think of when we hear the term: born again?  What connotations does it have?  When we hear the term born again in our society, we think of Evangelical Christians.  The term denotes a very personal relationship.  An individual is unhappy with the direction in their lives, they see that there is a better way, in this case, accepting Jesus as their lord, and they are born again.  It might surprise you to know that this idea of being “born again” is not so foreign to us as Jews.  We see it a lot, just in different words.  In our vocabulary, a born again Jew is generally called a Ba’al Tesuvah.  This is also a very personal thing.  But Judaism is not always about the personal, most of the time, it is about the community and the people.  What I want to discuss is how we as a people were born again in this week’s parashah, B’Shalach. One of the most famous scenes in the Torah is found in thi…