Shabbat Bamidbar
May 14 & 15, 2021
Israel Under Attack

We are quickly approaching the holiday of Shavuot, the holiday where we mark the giving of the Torah to our people. A rabbinic legend imagines a conversation between God and the Jewish people before the revelation:

At Sinai, when the Jews were ready to receive the Torah, God said to them, “What? Am I supposed to give you the Torah without any security? Bring some good guarantors that you will keep it properly, and I will give it to you.” The Jews responded: Our ancestors will be our guarantors. God answered: They themselves need a guarantor! Avraham questioned Me: “How will I know?” (Genesis 15:8). Yitzchak loved Esav although I hate him (Malachi 1:3). Yaakov thought I mistreated him (see Isaiah 40:27). Jews: Our prophets. God: I have complaints against them, too: “The shepherds sinned against Me” (Jeremiah 2:8). “Israel, your prophets were like foxes…” (Ezekiel 13:4). Jews: Our children are our guarantors. God: Now, that’s a guarantor! “From the mouth of infants and babes You founded oz (strength)” (Psalms 8:3)—this (the strength) is Torah…(Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1:4)

The message of the teaching is clear: our children are our treasure, and they are the hope of our collective future. This week, our siblings of all ages in Israel have been attacked relentlessly by Hamas rockets. I have been in contact with friends who live in Israel, some in Tel Aviv, some in Jerusalem. They sent me pictures and videos of the Iron Dome intercepting the rockets from Gaza, they sent me videos of rockets hitting streets, but perhaps the most heartbreaking pictures were of their children in bomb shelters, especially one of our friend's daughter (pictured above). The fear in her eyes spoke volumes. There are children in Gaza as well who are also suffering, some who have lost their lives. Israel always does her best to help save the lives of civilians, no matter their background, but, unfortunately, collateral damage happens. I was on a webinar with a spokesperson from the IDF, and during the question and answer session, a participant asked, in not so many words, how can Israel expect to beat Hamas when we warn them before a bomb is going to hit their headquarters?!? The spokesperson said, “the fourteen-story building we destroyed where Hamas was located also had a family with children on the third floor. We warned them to save that family.” 

It does not make us weak to have sympathy for the loss of the children of our enemies, rather, I believe it makes us stronger. The former Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meir is quoted as saying, “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”

The Israeli response is quite the opposite of Hamas which actually targets civilians of all different backgrounds, including Arabs living in Israel, and of course, children.

As Jews, we are beholden to the future, and the future are our children. They are the reason we were given the Torah, and we will pass our tradition on to them.

The IDF spokesperson was asked by one of the participants, what can we do to help? Of course, people have donated money to Israeli causes, but what else can we do? His answer was perhaps the most Jewish answer I heard: speak the truth and be kind. When we hear lies, we have to combat them, but we must also act with kindness towards all, because, as he said, we are ambassadors of the state of Israel. 

Let us all pray for the health and safety of all children, and pray that peace and security return to Israel. 

Rabbi David Baum
Rabbi Baum's Shavuot Message

Shalom Shaarei Kodesh,

I will never forget an experience I had in the Negev, the south of Israel, during my year of study at the Schechter Institute as part of my rabbinical school studies. Our class took a tiyul (a field trip) to the desert. Around fifty of us (including teachers and spouses) sat in a small area overlooking a vast, expansive desert. I will never forget the panoramic site, but what really affected me was what I heard. The tour guide instructed us: "I know rabbis love talking, but, if you can do me this one favor, be silent for a couple of minutes to experience the silence of the wilderness." One of our classmates stood up and started a niggun (a song without words). The tour guide spoke up: “I see you also love singing. No words, no songs, just silence.” And so we sat, silent, together. I realized that the wilderness is actually a very loud place. I didn’t hear any animals, and yes, there was the howl of the wind, but the silence we experienced was deafening. 

I realized that God’s voice is also like this. Although we may not ‘hear’ God’s voice in the traditional sense, if we focus, that voice not only can be heard, but it is also loud. The question is, are we listening? 

In so many ways, it has been a ‘silent’ year. Last year, I remember driving on the highway at the beginning of the shutdown and seeing no traffic at all. The roads were silent, and yet, we all knew that the people weren’t missing, they were just in their homes. As we begin to come out of the pandemic and take our first steps to normalcy, the pre-pandemic noise that we miss will return; the question is, what did we learn from the silence? 

On the holiday of Shavuot, we reenact one of the largest gatherings in Jewish history - when the children of Israel, well over 600,000, received the Torah at Mount Sinai following their liberation from Egypt. A well-known midrash says that all Jewish souls, past, present, and future, were at Sinai at the same time to receive the Torah. On Shavuot, we relive this experience and renew our covenant with God. There are plenty of midrashim/rabbinic legends that expand upon what the scene looked like, but I want to share just one from Exodus Rabbah.

“For what man is there in all the earth, who, hearing the voice of the living God as we have, out of the heart of the fire, has been kept from death?” (Deut 5:22) Come and see how the Voice went out to all Israel each and everyone according to their own ability. The elderly according to their ability, the young ones according to their ability, the smallest ones according to their ability, and the infants according to their ability, and the women according to their ability, and even Moses according to his ability. As it says: (Exodus 19:19) “Moshe spoke and the Lord answered with Voice.” With the voice that they were able to tolerate. As it says “The voice of the Lord is full of power” (Psalms 29:4). It doesn’t say “with God’s power”, rather “with power”. With the power of each and every individual, and even to pregnant women according to their own ability, it was said each one according to their ability. 

The midrash speaks to the individual experience that each person had in that huge crowd. But the interesting element to this midrash is how people heard God’s voice. Every person heard God’s voice in their own way. It was almost as if each person had noise-canceling headphones on; each person heard God’s voice, but there was not an audible voice in public. 

What exactly was said at Sinai? There are many different opinions. Some say the entire Five Books of Moses, some say all Torah, past present and future was given; and some say, God only said the Alef of Anochi (which translates to the word ‘I’: “I am Adonai Your God, who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slaves.” 

The first letter, Alef, is a silent letter in the sense that it needs other letters to give it a sound. Therefore, the ‘Alef’ has a certain mysterious aura that surrounds it. Silence is also a mysterious concept. Silence means the absence of sound, a seeming state of nothingness, and yet, we all know how much we can learn from silence. Join us on Shavuot to learn from three rabbis, Rabbi Ed Bernstein, Rabbi Elaine Schnee, and me, about what Judaism teaches us about silence. You can read more about the topics by clicking here.

I look forward to joining together for this special holiday as we return to Sinai once again. I wish you all a Shabbat Shalom and an early Hag Sameach! 

Rabbi David Baum
Shavuot Archives | My Jewish Learning

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Friday Morning Minyan
(Pirkei Avot class is on hiatus until May 28)
Friday, May 14, 2021
8:30 AM ET
Meeting ID: 882 0065 3129 Passcode: 910086
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Led by Cantor Hadash
May 14, 2021
6:15 PM ET
Meeting ID: 882 0065 3129 Passcode: 910086
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In-Person (& on Zoom)
Shabbat Morning Services
Saturday, May 15, 2021
9:30 AM ET


There are still seats available!
You MUST RSVP to attend in person. First come, first served.
Reservations must be received by Friday at 10:00 AM

For more information on registering, COVID guidelines, and other important details CLICK HERE
Parashat Bamidbar
D'var Torah by Rabbi Elaine Schnee
Saturday, May 15, 9:30 AM ET

Matt Weiss - 2:1-2:9
Matt Weiss - 2:10-2:16
Lenny Berkowitz - 2:17-2:24
Lenny Berkowitz - 2:25-2:31
Lenny Berkowitz - 2:32-2:34
Matt Weiss - 3:1-3:4
Rabbi Amy Grossblatt Pessah - 3:5-3:13
Rabbi Amy Grossblatt Pessah - Maftir 3:11-3:13
Bernie Grossman Haftarah - Isaiah 63: 7-16
Meeting ID: 882 0065 3129 Passcode: 910086
+13126266799,,88200653129#,,,,,,0#,,910086# US (Chicago)
***Note the new time
Meeting ID: 882 0065 3129 Passcode: 910086
+13126266799,,88200653129#,,,,,,0#,,910086# US (Chicago)
May 16-18, 2021

This will be both in-person and on zoom.

To attend in person, YOU MUST RSVP by Friday at 11 AM!

Congregation Shaarei Kodesh and
B'nai Torah Congregation

Combined Weekly Morning Minyan
Rabbi Baum will lead weekday Shacharit for our combined congregations
Every Wednesday morning at 8:00 AM
Meeting ID: 570 477 057 Password: 8nkS8u
By phone: (929) 205-6099 | Meeting ID: 570 477 057 | Password: 601971

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