My sacred task as rabbi is to ignite the God-given hidden spark within each person, and connect this light to others through building spiritual community. The tool of ignition, inspiration, and agitation is our Torah, 70 Faces and all, and my task is make Torah come alive (through diverse venues) in the present so it will live in the future. I seek to be a madrich/guide and leader who can help others traverse through the windy pathways of life.
I want to begin by telling you a story of something
that happened to me, and might have happened to you:
I was at a conference and a man came up to me, a man
I had not recognized, and he started talking to me, but not like a stranger,
like someone who knew me.He asked
me how my family was doing, how my job was going, how life in Boca Raton was,
very specific questions, but I had no idea who this gentlemen was!Finally, after 10 minutes of
conversation, I summoned up the courage to ask him:how do I know you?How do you know so much about me but I don’t know you from Adam!First he said, your name tag says your
name and what city you are from, and second, we have met before, at Sinai.
And the man walked away.
Sinai, when the Jewish people received the Torah and
in turn their destiny, is the transformative event of our people’s
history.That one event not only obligated
the generation who experienced it to become part of the covenant between God
and the Jewish people, but all future generations, and we see a reminder of
this in our parashah this week:
9 You stand this day, all of you, before the Lord
your God—your tribal heads, your elders and your officials, all the men of
Israel, 10your children, your wives, even the stranger within your camp,
from woodchopper to water drawer— 11to enter into the covenant of the Lord
your God, which the Lord your God is concluding with you this day, with its
sanctions; 12to the end that He may establish you this day as His people
and be your God, as He promised you and as He swore to your fathers, Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob. 13 I make this covenant, with its sanctions, not with
you alone, 14but both with those who are standing here with us this day
before the Lord our God and with those who are not with us here this day.
reinforces the idea that Sinai wasn’t an event that just happened to their
parents, because the people standing in front of him were their children, but
also their children who are not yet born, as the midrash states,
[also] with those who are not here: also with
future generations. — [Tanchuma 3]”
Let me ask you something, is that fair?Why should I be bound by the oaths that
my great great-grandparents took?If someone came to me saying that my ancestor owed them money, would I
Perhaps this is why Moses gives this message again
and expands on it.Because this
message is different.
It’s interesting that Moshe begins by saying ‘all of
you’ and then lists everyone, and that’s why it’s different.
It is more inclusive.We see here that Moses makes a point to include everyone, “your children, your wives, even the
stranger within your camp, from woodchopper to water drawer”
Why mention woodchopper and water drawer, and
everyone in between?Because
these occupations are menial – they aren’t doctors and lawyers, they are the
people who do the work that keeps us going and yet we don’t think about.What is Moses saying – yes, even them,
those who you might think are beneath you, and even the stranger in your midst
– they are part of this covenant!God loves them as much as God loves you.
This week a very special event occurred, and no, I’m
not talking about the VMA’s, but the anniversary of one of the greatest moments
in the history of the United States – the 50th Anniversary of the I
Have A Dream Speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. King was a great man.He was his generation’s Moses, and both had something in
common – they were attempting to leave something to their people that would
long outlive both themselves and the people who heard the speech! They were attempting to bring future
generations into their covenant.
Moses may have started off as reluctant leader,
making excuse after excuse as to why he was the wrong person for the job, but
he grew into an almost super human force.He spoke truth to power and was the only human who could know God, face
to face, panim el panim.But
Moses, like Dr. King, could not see the true realization of his dream.
What does it mean to ‘have a dream’ or to be a
We Jews are famous dreamers, and there is a famous
midrash that I want to share with you to highlight this attribute:
In the book of Psalms we celebrate the
"A Song of Ascents. When God brings about the
return to Zion, we were like dreamers. Then our mouths will be filled with laughter
and our tongues with joyous song. (Psalms 126:1-2). "The verb tense
is confusing. It is a vision of the future that references the
past. How timely!
Rabbi David Seth Kirschner, a colleague and friend
commented on this line:
people that use their past to better
shape their future. Dreamers are influenced by challenge
and adversity and know the road ahead is paved by the steps in the
road already traveled. Dreamers hope and aspire for something better
but, they learn best from their own encounters.”
And I would add, dreamers care more about the future
than even the present.They work
so hard because they want to leave a better world for their grandchildren –
they want their children to be part of their covenant.
In this week’s parashah, Moses stood in front of his
people giving them words of legacy, words that would stay with them on their
journeys in life.
When you read the “I have a dream speech”, you
realize that Dr. King was a dreamer – he cared more about the future than his
own life!He spoke about a time
when white children and black children in the Deep South would hold hands in
solidarity.This was a time when
they were not allowed to drink out of the same water fountains!When Jews and Gentiles would look at
each other as brothers and sisters, hardly the world of the early 60’s!
Moses and Dr. King and so many other prophets teach
us how to be dreamers.
The speech that Moses gave in our parashah was on
the last day of his life, and he knew it was.Dr. King also gave a speech shortly before he was
assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, in support of African American garbage men
on strike – looking for equal pay and equal rights, the woodchopper to water drawer
of their day, and as you read the speech titled, I’ve Been To the Mountain top,
you almost wonder, did he know?
In his speech, he spoke about the times when he was
almost assassinated –one time he was stabbed and the knife was once inch from
his heart, and had he sneezed, he would have died.So maybe he did know.He ended the speech with these words:
“Like anybody, I would like to
live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that
now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the
mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get
there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get
to the promised land!
They both fought for the people for the sake of God.They both fought injustice whenever and
wherever it may be.
On this Labor Day, let us remember that equality of
opportunity for all, including in work, was a big part of King’s legacy.Let us remember that all of us are part
of the Moses’ and King’s covenant.Let us remember that we are all God's children - black men and white men,
Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, and let us expand the list to
include women, people of all religions, straight or gay, all races and
All of us standing here today and those who come
after us have the right to live a life of dignity and equality in these United
Pre-Passover Weekly Message - 2017/5777 I hope everyone's Pesach preparations are going well. Every year, we busy ourselves with kashering our kitchens, cleaning our homes from top to bottom, buying the appropriate kosher for passover foods (which often means wading through crowded aisles at kosher grocery stores), and of course, cooking if you are hosting a seder. Unfortunately, we must not only physically prepare for Passover, but spiritually prepare. In my weekly message, I have provided resources for both your physical and spiritual preparations for Pesach. 1. Passover Guide from the Rabbinical Assembly 2. Some divrei torah/sermons I have delivered/written over the past couple of weeks about the holiday of Passover and related themes. 3. Resources to spice up your Passover Seders 4. Face to face learning on Sunday and Monday. On Shabbat morning (tomorrow), join us for Shabbat HaGadol as we honor our graduating seniors and welcome a guest speaker (speaking after services),…
The Answer To Rising Waters Is Right In Front Of UsB’Shalach/Tu Bish'vat 5777/2017Rabbi David Baum, Congregation Shaarei Kodesh A couple of years ago, during Parashat Noach, I gave a sermon that dealt with the issue of climate change and the role that we as humans have played in our changing environment. What was interesting was who was listening. In the congregation, there were a number of Canadian Jews. I’ll never forget the feedback I received from them in particular. “Rabbi, a good sermon, really, BUT…let me ask you something - you had a multi-national Jewish audience here listening to your sermon - why didn’t you speak about something that affects us all?!? I looked at him in a sort of disbelief. At first, I could not understand what he was talking about - isn’t a message about climate change davka something that affects us all?!? But then I realized what he was talking about - he didn’t think it was a particularly Jewish message. I am not for myself, who will be for me? As Je…