Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Message to Congregation Shaarei Kodesh about the recent events in Israel (July 2014)

Congregation Shaarei Kodesh 
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לִבִּי בְמִזְרָח וְאָנֹכִי בְּסוֹף מַעֲרָב


My heart is in the east, and I am in the uttermost west - Yehudah HaLevi


I write this letter to you today from Camp Ramah Darom where I am spending two weeks teaching campers and staff, and spending time with thirteen campers and staff members from our congregation. Camp is a magical place happily cut off from the rest of the world. At camp, you do not see anyone looking down at their phones as they walk around, and few people with ear buds blasting music. Instead, you see hundreds of young Jews interacting with each other and basking in the beautiful surroundings of the mountains of North Georgia. However, even though we are seemingly isolated from the rest of the world, we are still connected to our people around the world, especially in Israel. We may be in the uttermost west, but our hearts are in the east. One of the beautiful things about Camp Ramah is their connection to Israel. Not only will you hear Hebrew spoken constantly, Israeli flags, and Israeli programming, but also Israelis. There are close to forty Chavrei Mishlachat (delegation of Israelis) who are counselors in bunks, teaching Hebrew, sports, art, hiking, rock climbing, and much more. At Camp Ramah, our children are instantly connected to the people of Israel in their daily lives.

In one of my classes, I taught a line from the Talmud (Talmud Bavli Shvuot 39a) - Kol Israel Areivim Zeh Bazeh - All Israel is responsible for one another. The word Israel is open to interpretation. Does it mean the people of Israel (Jews), the land of Israel, or the people living within the land of Israel? One of the students interpreted the line to mean Israel - the land and her people. He said, "As Jews, we are all Israelis, and we are responsible for one another." It is during these difficult times that our hearts must be with our friends and family in Israel. The last month has been a traumatic one for our people, from the murders of Eyal, Naftali and Gil-ad, the three students murdered on their way home for Shabbat by Hamas terrorists, to the Hillul Hashem, the desecration of God's name, as Jewish terrorists murdered a Palestinian teen, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, to the rockets being shot by Hamas and Islamic Jihad that are hitting the South of Israel, and reaching as far north as Tel Aviv, and as far east as Jerusalem. Israeli citizens, men and women, are being called up for reserves as we speak, along with the young men and women who are full time soldiers in the IDF, with the people of Israel hiding in bomb shelters as thousands of rockets fly indiscriminately at soldier and civilian alike. All of us are responsible for one another. With that kavanah in mind, we wanted to offer opportunities for us to help our brothers and sisters in Israel. We are providing links to various organizations on this email that are helping in Israel. Each organization is doing something unique to help in their own way, so we invite you to learn more about them and give accordingly. We also invite you to join the community wide Israel solidarity gathering on Wednesday July 16 at Bnai Torah Congregation. Let us come together as a community, dressed in blue and white, in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Israel.

On Friday, I gave a dvar tefillah to one of the eidot (age groups) on the prayer in Shacharit (morning service), 'Or Hadash Al Tzion Tair, V'Nizkeih Chulanu Me'era L'Oro' - 'God, cause a new light unto Zion (Jerusalem/Israel), and may we all soon share a portion of its radiance.' Light is the foil to darkness. Light brings peace, darkness brings death and destruction. I told them during this difficult time, we pray that God shine the light of peace upon Israel. We ended by singing Oseh Shalom - May God who brings peace to God's universe bring peace to us, and to all the people Israel, and to the rest of the world. And we answered Amen. We are in the uttermost West, but our hearts are in the east. Let us all pray for peace for our brothers and sisters in Israel, and help them in every way we can.


Rabbi David Baum





The JEWISH FEDERATION OF SOUTH PALM BEACH COUNTY has launched an Israel Emergency Campaign to help evacuate, care for and relocate families in danger, provide food and medicine to the elderly and disabled, assist victims of physical and emotional trauma and to find safe haven for all in harm's way.  Click HERE to support the Israel Emergency Campaign.

During these turbulent times, Israel can count on the brave men and women of the IDF, who stand guard on every border to ensure no harm comes to its people.  

As our soldiers prepare for a possible ground attack in Gaza, we will  provide snack packages to them to energize and comfort them, and undergarment packages and toiletry kits, which will allow for basic hygiene and great physical relief.  Help us fulfill the needs of the IDF soldiers by donating to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF.)  Click 

HERE to make a donation.


The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) has partnered with the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) in their "Stop The Sirens" campaign against the violence in Israel.  Click HERE to learn more about this campaign and to make a donation.


Donations to the emergency campaign of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) can help support the Indoor Recreation Center in Sderot, the Israeli Fire and Rescue Services, and urgently needed mobile bomb shelters for new communities in the desert.  Click HERE to learn more about this campaign and to make a donation.



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Congregation Shaarei Kodesh
Affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
19785 Hampton Drive, Suite 4     Boca Raton, FL   33434
Phone:  561-852-6555    Fax:  561-852-3604

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Just Breathe - How To Respond to Anger and Frustration

Just Breathe - A Response to Anger and Frustration© 

Rabbi David Baum

Parashat Hukkat, June 28, 2014, Rosh Hodesh Tammuz 5774

Chapter 20
1 The Israelites arrived in a body at the wilderness of Zin on the first new moon, and the people stayed at Kadesh. Miriam died there and was buried there.
2 The community was without water, and they joined against Moses and Aaron. 3 The people quarreled with Moses, saying, “If only we had perished when our brothers perished at the instance of the Lord! 4 Why have you brought the Lord’s congregation into this wilderness for us and our beasts to die there? 5 Why did you make us leave Egypt to bring us to this wretched place, a place with no grain or figs or vines or pomegranates? There is not even water to drink!”
6 Moses and Aaron came away from the congregation to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and fell on their faces. The Presence of the Lord appeared to them, 7 and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 8 “You and your brother Aaron take the rod and assemble the community, and before their very eyes order the rock to yield its water. Thus you shall produce water for them from the rock and provide drink for the congregation and their beasts.”
9 Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as He had commanded him. 10 Moses and Aaron assembled the congregation in front of the rock; and he said to them, “Listen, you rebels, shall we get water for you out of this rock?” 11 And Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod. Out came copious water, and the community and their beasts drank.
12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust Me enough to affirm My sanctity in the sight of the Israelite people, therefore you shall not lead this congregation into the land that I have given them.” 13 Those are the Waters of Meribah—meaning that the Israelites quarrelled with the Lord—through which He affirmed His sanctity.

Why do you think Moses hit the rock?
I’ll give you my reason, but first, let me share some words brought to you by PBS (the Public Broadcasting Service). 
One can learn a lot from watching Sesame Street, and I don’t mean just kids, but their parents who watch with them!
Today, I want to share a lesson I learned from Elmo – it’s called belly breathing.
There is a song on Sesame Street that teaches our children what to do when they get angry. 
“Sometimes the monster that’s inside you
Is a monster that is mad
It’s a monster who is angry
It’s a monster who feels bad.
When your monster wants to throw things
And your monster wants to shout
There’s a way to calm your monster and chill your inner monster out.”
Your mad monster may appear at any time and any place
And that mad monster will make you make a mad monster face.
He makes you want to push he makes you want to shove
There’s a way to calm that monster bring out the monster love!”
Belly breathe gonna breathe right through it
Belly breathe this is how you do it.
Put your hands on your tummy now you’re ready to begin
Put your hands on your belly and you slowly breathe in.
Feel your belly go out and in and in and out
And you start to calm down without a doubt
Feel your belly go in and out and out and in
Now Elmo feels like himself again.”
These lessons aren’t just for nursery school – but for everyone, and I only wish there was Sesame Street ‘in the wilderness’ for Moses to watch.
My answer is quite simple, Moses lost his temper.  He became angry. 
God says: “You and your brother Aaron---take the rod and assemble the community, and, before their eyes, speak to the rock and order it to give forth water. This is how you shall provide water from the rock for the people and for their flocks.”
Moses does as he is told. He gathers the people, and he takes up the rod. And then, suddenly, with no warning, Moses goes ballistic, exploding with anger.  He takes the staff and he hits the rock twice with all his might—instead of speaking to it, as he was supposed to do. And as he does, he lashes out at the people, screaming:  “Listen here, you rebels, shall we bring you water from this rock?”
This is not the same Moses who kept his cool in front of Pharaoh.  This is not the same Moses who led the people for 40 years, with calmness, patience, and deliberation.  Sure, Moses had his moments of anger, but often times, it was Moses calming God down! 
This is not my idea alone, in fact, we learn it from another Moses – Maimonides. 
Maimonides states that Moshe Rabenu’s sin was letting his anger come forth when he called the people rebels.  This is why God punished him.  He writes, “This behavior in such a man constituted a Hillul Hashem, a profanation of God’s name, since he was the model of good conduct for all the people.”
But why did he become so angry?  This wasn’t the first time that the people complained – he’s danced this dance before. 
Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik tells us to look at verse 1:
“The Israelites arrived in a body at the wilderness of Zin on the first new moon, and the people stayed at Kadesh. Miriam died there and was buried there.”
The story begins by saying that Miriam died, and she was buried, and then it says that the people ran out of water.
And then they came to Moses.
Right after his sister dies, he is thrust right back to work – no shiva. 
We live in an interesting society.  We value those who work hard, and if you take a break, than you aren’t a hard worker.  How does one get ahead?  Sacrifice everything, especially your time.
But Judaism teaches us differently.  Judaism teaches us that we need breaks, so much so that God forces us to rest one day out of the week, whether we like to or not. 
When we lose someone, especially someone as close as a sibling, we are supposed to take a time out and mourn.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says that what happened to Moses happens to all of us. Bereavement leaves us vulnerable. In the midst of our loss we are unable to control our emotions. We make mistakes. We act rashly. We suffer from poor judgment. That is why the first thing we tell our friends when they are in grief is not to make decisions too quickly.
We tell them: wait a little bit until you make financial decisions, don’t sell the house, don’t decide which child you are going to live with, don’t decide what to do with the business, don’t make any major decisions until you have recovered from this blow, and until you have had to time to think.
And, most importantly, don’t go right back to work without mourning. 
Unfortunately, I have seen many cases where people feel they need to get back to work.  They tell me, ‘this is how I cope with loss, by being busy.’  And almost always, they end up regretting their decision not to take a break, not to take a big belly breath.  It hurts them, and it also hurts others. 
So if Moshe Rabbenu needed time to grieve, to rest, to take a belly breath, then how much more do each one of us need to do the same?
Taking a breather might seem like such an easy thing to do, and a ridiculous thing to write a sermon about, and yet, we see what damage can ensue when we don’t take those important belly breathes.
Shiva and mourning is also a time of taking a break from the normal patterns of your life.  Shiva and mourning eases one back into the world after their world is irreparably shaken by their loss. 
Shabbat is all about taking in that breathe, breathing in that extra soul that we receive on Shabbat.  When we hear a great musical piece we realize that the pauses are just as important as the music that’s being played.  When we remove the pauses, the symphony becomes less rich. 
We need to pause more, we need to mourn when we are supposed to mourn, and we need to let ourselves rest when we need to rest.

We need to breathe more, not just alone, but together.