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Tazria 5779 - The Morning Shema with Zecharia Baumel

04/10/2019 12:18:20 PM

Apr10

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

This week I had the honor of writing column 213/248 in the Torah.  This passage contains the holy passage of Shema Yisrael.  As I wrote the words of Shema, my heart trembled as I thought of all the souls that had uttered these words at the most precious and perilous moments of life.  I thought of all the parents that recited these words with their children as they said good night.  I thought of all the children that...Read more...

Shemini 5779 -  Open Chassidus

04/04/2019 01:04:05 PM

Apr4

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

Our Torah portion is called Shemini.  It refers to the eighth day of the inauguration of the Temple.  According to the Talmud, this day coincided with Rosh Chodesh Nissan (Shabbat, 87).  After the Mishkan was built, it needed to be properly inaugurated before it could be used.  There were 7 days of inaugural services leading up to the first day of Nissan.  The first day of Nissan was the 8th and final day of the...Read more...

Zachor 5779 - They Tried to Kill Us, We Won, Let’s Eat! Fear, Revenge, and the American Jewish Identity

03/19/2019 12:19:10 PM

Mar19

Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman

There is a joke that has emerged in American Jewish society in the past few decades - that every Jewish holiday can be summarized as follows “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!” Pesach is “Pharaoh tried to destroy us, we won, let’s eat.” Chanukah is “The Greeks tried to obliterate us, we won, let’s eat.”

I’ve been thinking about this joke the past few days and I’ve realized that, while funny, it isn’t...Read more...

Pekudei 5779 - May Hashem Bless our Handiwork!

03/13/2019 04:44:58 PM

Mar13

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

There are 63 yerios in the Torah that I am writing—63 pieces of parchment.  On each yeriah there are four amudim (columns).  While working on the second amud of yeriah 41, I lost concentration for a moment, accidentally skipped a line, and wrote the name of Hashem in the wrong place, twice.  When I learned that I did this I felt nauseous.  I remember the moment very clearly.  I had woken up super early and had...Read more...

Terumah 5779

02/12/2019 04:15:08 PM

Feb12

Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman

Many rabbis feel that Terumah is one of the toughest parshiot to speak about - our job is to take the parsha, find something that we find especially interesting, and speak about it in a way that connects to our lives. And so a parsha that contains almost exclusively information about how to build the mishkan is known affectionately as one of the more challenging parshiot, and one that in theory we may want to try to avoid. And somehow,...Read more...

Bat Mitzvah Celebrations at Ohev Sholom

12/31/2018 02:01:53 PM

Dec31

Rabbi Herzfeld & Maharat Friedman

There will be four bat mitzvah celebrations over four consecutive Shabbatot in the coming month of January. This is an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of four amazing girls who grew up in our community, and we know that they are each working super hard for this day. Their commitment is inspiring. What a blessing to be celebrating with these girls and their families!
 
These bat mitzvah girls will all lead Women’s...Read more...

Shemot 5779 - Heroic Activism

12/31/2018 01:22:02 PM

Dec31

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

This week our world sat shiva for Simcha Rotem, also known as Kazik, one of the last survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.  For a month, starting on April 19, 1943, less than one thousand Jewish fighters took on the powerful German army and resisted with every ounce in their body.  Kazik’s job was to oversee the final operation that took the remaining fighters from the ghetto and helped them escape through the sewers....Read more...

Vayechi  5779

12/26/2018 12:22:25 PM

Dec26

Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman

When I was looking at this parsha last week and trying to decide what to teach for my parsha class - which you are all invited to! - I decided that we would study Yaakov’s last Testament to his brothers, often referred to as Yaakov’s blessings to his children (though they aren’t actually blessings). The language is some of the most obscure and difficult to understand language in the whole Torah, and everyone from the Anchor Bible...Read more...

Vayigash 5779 - We Will Not Live in Goshen

12/18/2018 09:48:46 AM

Dec18

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

Even though Chanukah is over I still have a Chanukah story to share.  For me one of the highlights of Chanukah is when we light the large 10-foot high menorah that is in front of our house.  Every year we announce the date and invite the whole neighborhood over for the lighting ceremony and we serve hot apple cider and sufganiyot.  This year was no different.  We had a joyous time dancing and celebrating with our lovely...Read more...

Two Nations Under God? Yaakov, Esav, and the midterm elections

11/13/2018 03:10:23 PM

Nov13

Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman

The story of Yaakov and Esav is a tragic story of conflict. They struggle while they are still in the womb, and this struggle continues throughout their lives. We have the story of the lentil stew when they are young men, followed by Yaakov stealing the blessing from Esav, and then years later they reunite but separate again, never to reunite. It is a story of twin brothers who never appear to have a positive relationship, and it is painful...Read more...

Mourning vs. Celebration

11/06/2018 12:07:02 PM

Nov6

Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman

Chayei Sarah 5779
6 days after the Pittsburgh shooting

I don’t even know what tone I should use to say “good shabbos” this week. Usually I exclaim “GOOD SHABBOS!” when I speak on Friday night, but that just doesn’t feel right this week with everything that happened in Pittsburgh. We are all in too much pain. But at the same time, our sages tell us that on shabbos we suspend mourning because of the collective...Read more...

Lech Lecha 5779 -  An Extraordinary Point

10/22/2018 02:54:50 PM

Oct22

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

I want to discuss an extraordinary point.  I know that sometimes I am prone to hyperbole, but in this case I promise you I am not exaggerating at all.  

I literally want to discuss an extraordinary point.

Here is how I noticed this extraordinary point in the first place.

I was writing our Torah scroll when I came to the following verse in this week’s portion:

“Vatomer sarai el avram, chamasi...Read more...

Shemini Atzeret 5779 -   How to Stop Time from Defeating Us

10/04/2018 10:06:06 AM

Oct4

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

“We have gotten used to tables, in telling time.  We reach out and take our days and weeks from them, like a buffet line.  They are well-arranged in columns and rows.  Even next year’s days may be known in advance.  Time has been foreseen and pre-prepared; we must only pick up our utensils and chow down.  

But there was a time when time knew no tables, when the year was a series of circles, and each...Read more...

Yom Kippur 5779 - Our Past Does Not Define Our Future

09/20/2018 11:44:54 AM

Sep20

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

Here is what Yom Kippur means to me: Our past should not define our future.  Just because we did something in the past –made a mistake, got into an argument, did something we weren’t proud of—that’s not who we are.  We can be different moving forward.

I am really glad that this Yom Kippur, on our holiest night of the year, we are joined by Joshua Lopez.  I am proud that he accepted my invitation to sit next to...Read more...

Yom Kippur 5779 

09/20/2018 11:44:52 AM

Sep20

Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman

As some, if not all of you, know, I have a 15 lb shih tzu named Cocoa. We love her tremendously, in spite of the fact that she drives us insane. One of her most annoying habits is the way that she plays fetch. She’ll walk into the living room and approach her overflowing basket of toys and demand to play. Yoni will happily oblige and throw a toy, she’ll run to go get it, and then come back a minute later without it in her mouth. We...Read more...

Rosh Hashanah 5779 - Silence is Golden? A reflection on Shofar and the True Meaning of Teruah

09/12/2018 03:57:15 PM

Sep12

Maharat Ruth Friedman

On one of the first days of my 9th grade biology class, our teacher walked around the room as he began the lesson. He was fairly casual so most of us didn’t think much of it until he paused for a moment and slammed the textbook he was holding closed right next to one of the girls in the class. As you can imagine, we all jumped at the noise, particularly that poor girl. Our teacher then explained that he did it to demonstrate the effects...Read more...

Rosh Hashanah 5779 - Day of Remembrance

09/12/2018 08:48:25 AM

Sep12

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

The main theme of Rosh Hashanah is to remember. But what are we remembering?

Ve-Hashem Pakad et Sarah. 

The Torah reading for Rosh Hashanah is “and God remembered Sarah.”  Sarah had desperately been hoping for a child and on Rosh Hashanah we read that God remembered her prayers.

One reason we read this passage on Rosh Hashanah is because the day on which God remembered Sarah was, according to the Talmud,...Read more...

07/09/2018 04:42:03 PM

Jul9

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

The Broken Vav
Pinchas, 5778

Recently I began learning how to be a sofer, a ritual scribe.  I am very grateful to my teacher, R. Eliezer Adam for spending hours of his time in training me.  My goal is to write a Torah scroll.  In order to accomplish this goal I am first writing a Megillat Esther, of which I am more than halfway done.  After finishing that, I plan on writing a second Megillat Esther. ...Read more...

07/03/2018 11:16:00 AM

Jul3

Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman

I Don't Really Care, Do You?
Balak, 5778

We are all familiar with the saying “If a tree falls in the forest and there’s nobody there to hear it, does it make a sound?” If I were to adapt it to this week’s parsha, I would ask “If a Moabite king hires a random prophet to go and curse the Israelites but blessings come out instead, and it has no ostensible impact on the Israelites, do we really need to devote an entire...Read more...

06/05/2018 02:53:15 PM

Jun5

Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman

The Art of Letting Go: A Study of Yitro and Moshe
Behaalotcha, 5778

I want to begin today by asking you to think about two questions: The first is - what is the best piece of advice you have ever received, and who gave it to you? The second is - what is the worst piece of advice you ever got, and who gave it to you, or advice you should have listened to but didn’t? Take a quick moment to think about it because I wanted to use...Read more...

06/01/2018 10:57:46 AM

Jun1

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

Boundaries vs. Personal Spiritual Growth
Nassoh, 5778


The opening parts of the book of Bemidbar are about the encampments of the Jewish people.  Each tribe was assigned to a specific camp with the camp of the Levites being in the center of the other tribes, and directly adjacent to the Mishkan.  The Levites were tasked with a very important role of breaking down, transporting, and then assembling the Mishkan and its...Read more...

05/21/2018 01:18:56 PM

May21

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

The Path from Hell to Heaven
Shavuot, 5778

The good news is that when all is said and done it seems that there is only one type of sin that will cause us to be assigned in perpetuity to gehinnom.  

The bad news is that this is a sin that seems pervasive in our society today, especially on social media.  But all is not lost because with enough effort and attention we can avoid this sin.

The Talmud...Read more...

05/20/2018 01:18:58 PM

May20

Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman

On Wednesdays We Wear Pink: The Lasting Lessons of the Women in Tanach
Shavuot, 5778

I wanted to open with a statement that, when I shared it with a group of women a few weeks ago, was met with audible gasps: The Book of Ruth is the only time in all of Tanach that women are in a positive relationship with each other. It is the only time that women are friends, that women get along. That is pretty shocking, and today I wanted to...Read more...

04/10/2018 01:15:18 PM

Apr10

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

Faster, Faster, the Redemption is Coming
Pesach Day 8, 5778

From start to finish Pesach is the holiday of redemption. But it is two different redemption stories. 

The holiday begins with the focus on our ancestors’ redemption from Egypt but it concludes with an emphasis on our future redemption in a messianic era.

One manifestation of this theme of future redemption is seen in the practice of Chassidim to...Read more...

03/27/2018 01:26:49 PM

Mar27

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

The Great Shabbat

Shabbat Hagadol means The Great Shabbat.  This Shabbat was for me truly The Great Shabbat.  It is a Shabbat I will remember for the rest of my life.

Many Shomer Shabbat teens from around the country wanted to observe Shabbat meticulously but they also wanted to be fully present in the March for our Lives.  So teens from our community sprung into action.  Led by Ezra Einhorn, the teens...Read more...

03/16/2018 10:18:31 AM

Mar16

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

The Story of Our Rashi Matzah

A few months ago a friend of mine passed away.  His name was Rabbi Yehudah Bohrer.  He dedicated his life to the state of Israel.  He loved every stone and blade of grass in Israel so much that he took extra joy in showing visitors all around the land.  One year a group from our shul traveled together to Israel and Rabbi Bohrer was our guide.

Rabbi Bohrer had a brother who ran...Read more...

03/10/2018 09:54:15 AM

Mar10

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

The Idolater as a Spiritual Giant
Parah 5778

This Shabbat we read the passage from the Torah known as parashat Parah, chapter 19 of Bamidbar, that contains the laws of the parah adumah, the red heifer.

The Torah tells us that if a person comes in contact with a dead body then they become ritually impure (tamei).  Such a person is unable to enter into the holy space of the Beit Hamikdash or to eat of the sacrificial...Read more...

12/27/2017 11:25:39 AM

Dec27

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

Self Segregation
Vayigash 5778

On Sunday, January 7, our shul will be going on a field trip.  We won’t be going far.  We will just be going up the road, less than a mile away, to a neighborhood in Silver Spring called Lyttonsville where we will tour the neighborhood with a local historian.  Lyttonsville was a segregated community founded by a freed slave in the 19th century.  The community that lived in...Read more...

11/27/2017 09:30:23 AM

Nov27

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

The Kosher Pig®
Vayetzei 5778

As Jacob prepares to leave the land of his birthplace, the land of Canaan, the land of our heritage, he dreams a dream.  His dream is not just a mere dream, but a symbol to him as he journeys outward to the world.

“Jacob dreamt a dream.  And behold his ladder was firmly attached to the ground and its top was climbing heavenward, vehineh sulam mutzvav artzah, verosho magiah...Read more...

10/16/2017 01:32:07 PM

Oct16

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

The World to Come is in Our Hands
Shemini Atzeret 5778

On Shemini Atzeret we recite yizkor.  We remember the souls who have enriched our lives with their love.  We hold them close spiritually and we connect to them in a way we don’t make time for every day.

On Shemini Atzeret the souls of our loved ones visit us and spend time with us.

Where are those souls the rest of the year?

This week...Read more...

Sat, April 20 2019 15 Nisan 5779