Thursday, July 22, 2010

So what’s this nobody doing, publishing a book of sermons?

Here's a tongue-in-cheek perspective I recently released on the audacity of my writings.  If after reading this you're still interested in my sermons, and you're in the Philly area, come to Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park this Saturday morning, July 24, when I'll be speaking on this week's portion, Va'ethannan.

So what’s this nobody doing,
publishing a book of sermons?

She’s not a rabbi. Not a Jewish scholar. Just a run-of-the-mill nonprofit marketing executive. Well, she is a Jewish mom and she did teach in her synagogue’s Hebrew School for a few years… but what qualifies Dina Baker to write and deliver more than a dozen sermons, and then—the height of arrogance—publish them as though all the world might want to read them?

But, then, that’s the point: we should all read them. And discuss them. And maybe even write and deliver some of our own. Baker recently published Creative License: Summer Sermons on Torah and Living in Community (Baker’s Dozen Press, 2010) to drive home the argument that we’re all leaders and congregants in a community of learners. We can teach and gain enrichment from each other: clergy, scholars and lay people alike. In other words, the text belongs to each of us; we all possess creative license.

Folks seem to agree
Rabbi Andrea Merow writes of the book, “In Judaism we are taught to place the value of study as our highest priority because ‘study leads to action.’ The author is reflective about current situations as she deftly weaves the weekly Torah portion, other great writings, and her superb intellect to confront issues that concern modern individuals and communities. In each selection she mines the wisdom of our great Tradition, and invites the reader to do the same. She essentially invites us in to use sacred text as a way to change our lives, to become better people, and members of more caring communities.”

Another reader says, “I am very much enjoying the book. It is so interesting when [Baker] speaks of ethical wills. My women's Jewish study group talked about writing ethical wills last year. I like your friend's feeling that her mother did leave her an ethical will in her way of imparting values, etc., even if it wasn't written. I find that comforting.”

The executive director of Beth Sholom Congregation writes in a congregational eNewsletter, “it’s a thought provoking read.”

If you’re going to write a book outside
your area of expertise, why stop there?

With her goal of widening the scope of text study and bringing it into our everyday lives, Baker also:
  • Offers a forum at, where readers are invited to continue the conversations begun by each sermon.
  • Issued the digital version of Creative License for Kindle, available here.
  • Publishes the Baker’s Dozen Press blog at, expanding on the book's themes of living in community, social justice, ethical wills, child-rearing, free will, obligation and more. One blog reader recently commented, “It was great to read your blogs and enjoy your expert writing again.”
  • Continues to deliver sermons, with her next one scheduled for this Saturday morning, July 24, 2010, at Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park, PA
  • Speaks to groups about her book, its themes, and what it all means to us as members of our communities.

Baker is available for interviews and speaking engagements. Please contact her directly at 215.913.4900 or and to receive a press preview copy of Creative License. The book is available to the public and to booksellers at

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