Blog: Cantor Baron

Posted by Cantor Phil Baron on August 9, 2018

I’m thought of as a law-abiding citizen, a team player, an upright fellow. But I have to admit there is a part of me that’s rebellious. Oh, nothing serious mind you, but I admit to occasionally violating the traffic laws. For instance -- and this is just between us, I might have willfully turned right on red at the corner of Valley Meadow and Sepulveda. Shocking, I know. The things you find out about people…

So, with rebels like me around, it’s no wonder that Parashat Re’eh begins with a stern admonition.

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Posted by Cantor Phil Baron on June 14, 2018

We try to praise with musical enthusiasm on a regular basis here at VBS. And thanks to some technological innovations and innovative programming, we plan to do even more with music in the coming year. I'd like to use my last Clergy Corner before fall to let you know about some upcoming opportunities, and some details about how to access the music of VBS -- 24/7.

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Posted by Cantor Phil Baron on April 19, 2018

In this week’s parasha we learn that an “eruptive plague” might afflict your house and that “green or reddish streaks” might appear and go deep into the walls. Today we would call a mold specialist, but in ancient times it was necessary to dissemble the afflicted area stone by stone.

The Chassidic rabbis of old saw a metaphor in this. They suggest that the inhabitants of Canaan had hidden treasures inside these walls, and that the eruptive plague was there to serve as an enticement for the Israelites to look deeper into the walls to find the treasures. Their teaching was a spiritual one, encouraging us to look beyond the veil of the everyday to find God’s blessings.

The walls of VBS also contain treasures, both spiritual and corporeal. We tend to think of our leadership, staff and clergy as the “soul” of the congregation, but when we dig into the walls that support our community, something very different emerges. Our treasure is our people, our families, our students, our congregation -- young and old.

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Posted by Cantor Phil Baron on February 28, 2018

If you attend synagogue services regularly you’ve no doubt had the experience of accidentally dropping a prayer book. It was drummed into me at an early age that my immediate reaction should be to scoop up the book and give it a kiss. This is the way Jewish people express their respect for God’s Name and Word. I wouldn’t think of ignoring this custom.

That’s why it’s so shocking that in this week’s Torah reading Moses, upon discovering the people worshiping the Golden Calf and in a fit of anger, throws down the holy tablets of the Ten Commandments. 

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Posted by Cantor Phil Baron on January 24, 2018

Shabbat Shira commemorates both the song sung by Moses and the Israelites, and the singing and dancing of Miriam and the Israelite women after crossing the sea to freedom.  This was a moment of pure joy and celebration unlike any other in the Torah.

Although the words of this remarkable song can be found in our Torah, we can only guess what the melody must have been like.  Just imagine its soaring phrases and exuberant chorus spreading among the hundreds of thousands of people on that far shore!

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Posted by Cantor Phil Baron on December 20, 2017

It’s nearly December 24 -- just one day away from that magical meal of mu-shu vegetables and egg foo-yung you’ve been waiting for. So while you’re waiting, munch some popcorn and indulge your craving for great entertainment with a new holiday tradition: the “Fiddler on the Roof” Sing-Along -- with friends!  This is the 10th year that the Laemmle Theaters have hosted this fun event, proceeds going to support The Jewish Historical Society.  Not only is this a screening of a brilliant film of perhaps the greatest musical of all time, but there will also be songs, games and prizes, all led by your host – me!

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Posted by Cantor Phil Baron on October 18, 2017

A number of people at VBS have asked me about a project I’m currently involved with, so I’m taking this opportunity to include some background and information in this week’s Clergy Corner. Please excuse the shameless plug (!), but I truly believe you will appreciate learning about this unique program.

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Posted by Cantor Phil Baron on August 3, 2017

Imagine thirty Jewish people in a room, all of them rabbis or cantors. Now imagine that they are completely silent – for hours at a time. They eat, pray, and study in total silence. This must be the beginning of a Twilight Zone episode, or the set-up for a Jewish joke, right?

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Posted by Cantor Phil Baron on April 25, 2017

This week’s parasha asks a challenging question: Is repentance alone enough to wipe away our wrongdoing, or is something more required of us?  And what is the nature of true repentance?

If you have ever demanded an apology from a young child, you know that reluctant repentance is far from adequate. I remember reminding my daughter that a coerced “sorry” under her breath was not enough to earn my forgiveness -- unless it was accompanied by one other important word. 

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Posted by Cantor Phil Baron on March 23, 2017

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel is probably the most eloquent writer ever on one of my favorite subjects: Shabbat. This week’s Torah reading wastes no time in reminding our people, not for the last time, of the importance of this holy day. It goes so far as to threaten death to anyone who violates the prohibition to work on the seventh day.

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