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Prayer of the Guest Chaplain of the U.S. Senate: Rabbi Stephen Baars on 22 May 2008

Guest Chaplain: Rabbi Stephen Baars, Aish HaTorah, North Bethesda, Maryland
Sponsor: Sen. Joe Lieberman, (D-CT)
Date of Prayer: 05/22/2008

Mr. LIEBERMAN. Mr. President, I wish to pay tribute to my friend Rabbi Stephen Baars, of Bethesda, MD, whom I had the honor of sponsoring as our guest Chaplain for this morning. Given all that Rabbi Baars has done to help others, it was fitting that he was picked to lead the Senate in prayer. No tribute would be complete, however, without giving Senators a greater understanding of his outstanding and unique accomplishments.

Born and raised in London, Rabbi Baars originally envisioned himself working in business or sales until, at age 19, he went on vacation to Israel and became enamored with Judaism. When he finally returned to London 6 months later, he had made up his mind to become a rabbi. Shortly thereafter, he moved back to Jerusalem, where he attended rabbinical school for 9 years through Aish HaTorah, a nonprofit network of Jewish educational centers.

After completing his studies, Rabbi Baars moved to Los Angeles to work for Aish HaTorah. It was in L.A. that he tried a second career as a stand-up comedian. On the advice of a friend, Rabbi Baars began taking comedy classes at UCLA and performing stand-up in clubs. In fact, he is the only rabbi to have performed at the famous L.A. Improv. Eventually, he would stop performing because he found his spiritual work more rewarding. His comedic skills, however, would play a role in his future work, serving as means for him to get his message across to audiences.

In 1990, Rabbi Baars moved to the Washington, DC, region and began teaching Jewish studies classes throughout the DC area. Some of his students included Senators, Representatives, and top business leaders.

In 1998, he established a Washington, DC, chapter of Aish HaTorah, and served as its executive director. It was there that he established his most ambitious and creative project yet. In 2002, troubled by America’s high divorce rate, Rabbi Baars created BLISS, an innovative, nondenominational marriage seminar that mixes humor with advice taken from the Torah and Talmud. Always an optimist who sees the best in people, Rabbi Baars conducts these seminars and prepares his provocative “Think Again” e-mail newsletter with the belief that human beings all contain the skills and attributes they need to be good spouses and parents and that they just need to learn how to reach deep into themselves to utilize these abilities.

Rabbi Baars continues to operate BLISS, which has won rave reviews from many of its participants. Not too long ago, he was kind enough to demonstrate a sample presentation to my staff, who very much enjoyed it. He has stated that his goal for BLISS is to help reduce the divorce rate in America to the single digits. Some may mock this goal as naive, but as Rabbi Baars says, “If you pick a goal that’s reasonable to achieve, you didn’t look high enough.”

Of course, it should come as no surprise that someone as dedicated to helping families as Rabbi Baars is happily married. He and his wife Ruth have been together for 16 years and have been blessed with seven wonderful children. His wife and family are a constant source of strength and support for Rabbi Baars as he pursues his life’s work.

Thank you, Rabbi Baars, for all you have done to bring families together. It was truly an honor to have you pray with us today.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, I listened intently to the prayer of the rabbi. I was really concerned during the first part of it because he said you only have so many words and then you are all through. But he went on to better explain that, which we surely appreciate, because we talk a lot around here. And if it is just words only, I think our life expectancy would not be very long. So we appreciate the Rabbi putting all the other conditions on it.


Contribute a translationSource (English)

Opening Prayer Given by the Guest Chaplain:

Words are more powerful than medicine,
and more painful than daggers.

Words can give courage to soldiers
or destroy careers,
even lives.

There is a Jewish teaching,
that a person is granted so many words in this world,
and when he has used them up,
so is his time on this good earth.

There is the right word.

Then there is the right word
at the right time.

Then there is the right word
and the courage to say it
to the right people.

May the Almighty, Ruler of this world,
fill our hearts and minds
with the wisdom,
and courage
to be able to choose the right words,
at the right time,
with the right person.


110th Congress, 2nd Session
Issue: Vol. 154, No. 85 — Daily Edition (May 22, 2008)




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