Rabbis Who Make House Calls to Your Office

Liane Hansen speaks to Rabbi Steve Baars of Aish HaTorah, a Jewish educational network that helps people who struggle to find time to devote to their faith during the work week. The group will send a rabbi right to your office.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Outside the Capitol in Washington, D.C., we caught up with Rabbi Steve Baars. He works for Aish HaTorah, a Jewish educational network. Today with the Passover celebration under way, many Jews around the world are finding time to reflect on a shared history and religion. But for those who struggled to find the time to devote to their faith during busy workweeks, Aish offers a service - it will send a rabbi right to your office.

Its rabbis have met with everyone from CEOs to neuroscientists to politicians. Rabbi Baars, thanks for your time.

Mr. STEVE BAARS (Rabbi, Aish HaTorah): My pleasure. Great to be here.

HANSEN: So, what's a typical day like for you on Capitol Hill?

Mr. BAARS: Well, we meet with staffers, sometimes a senator, people looking for a quick idea to help them understand life a little better, Jewish practice a little more, connect spiritually. All kinds of different things.

HANSEN: Tell us a little bit about, for example, some of the lessons that you might provide.

Mr. BAARS: I kind of have a generic kind of way we begin. And the idea is like this: they say a wise man learns from his own experience. But Jews, we say that's really not a wise man, that's a fall. A wise man learns from other people's experience. In other words, you put your finger in the socket and tell me what that's like and I'll learn from you.

So we teach people how to look at life and learn whatever you're going through in life someone has done that before.

HANSEN: And you're able to bring not only people's past experiences but you go way back into the Torah and to the Old Testament and talk about that experience as a life lesson I would imagine.

Mr. BAARS: Well, we've got three-and-a-half thousand years of Jewish culture, of Jewish people writing down their ideas and life. And for most people it's inaccessible. It's in Hebrew, it's in (unintelligible), some of it's in Yiddish. And so what we've done, we specialize is go through this literature and customize it for someone who's going through their issue.

And everyone thinks their issue is completely unique, whether it's, you know, you're dealing with someone who's going through the Cuban missile crisis or some of the things you're dealing with on the heel of something as dramatic as that. Whatever happens to be, the wisdom is out there to help you get through it, to think it through.

HANSEN: Rabbi, do you find that you're more in demand in stressful times like an election year or when the economy's bad?

Mr. BAARS: That's a really good question. The interesting thing is, you know, no one calls a rabbi when they win the lottery. Whether the economy's doing well, economy's doing badly, there are still people suffering. You know, that's one of the things no one has figured out how to stop.

HANSEN: But with politicians during an election, that's a little different, don't you think, though?

Mr. BAARS: During election time they're frantic. The rest of the times they're frantic too.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BAARS: You know, their job, which is a marvelous job really, is to solve the country's problems. You know, that list might be 200 and it might be sometimes 150. It might be three things in it but I still just can't sleep until I get rid of those three things. I never got it down to zero.

HANSEN: Rabbi Steve Baars works for Aish HaTorah, a Jewish educational network, which will send a rabbi to your place of work. Rabbi Baars works on Capitol Hill and we reached him just across the street from the Capitol building. Thank you, rabbi. Happy Passover.

Mr. BAARS: Thank you so much. Thank you to everybody who's listening.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: You're listening to NPR News.

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