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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hebron

Last Shabbos, Porat Yosef, our four year old cousin, tragically drowned.

His parents, a beautiful young couple, sat Shiva in the city of Hebron, just a few meters away from one of the holiest sites on Earth - the Mearat HaMachpela.

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I never drove to Hebron before and I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant.  With my broken AC in the car I somehow did not feel like the road to Hebron was the right neighborhood to drive around in with the windows rolled down enjoying the summer breeze. The normal way of getting to Hebron is by bullet proof bus but that was an option that I just didn’t have time for.

I parked my car on a street that Avrohom Avinu most certainly once parked his donkey. As I looked around I realized that the local press goes out of its way to portray the Jewish inhabitants of this city as political nudniks. A better description might be ‘heroic selfless tzadikim that are willing to do whatever it takes to live according to their beliefs’. Many talk the talk - here lived people that walk the walk.

When I walked into the Shiva house something happened. I entered a house full of men and women comforting an obviously very distraught mother and father. As a rabbi I have visited hundreds of Shiva houses, but this was different. The dress, the mood, the discussion, and the look on everyones face transported me to a different time. AsI walked through the wide open door I walked back 2000 years. Somehow the mood and the spirit of all the laws of mourning, which I know all too well, were active in this room. I was humbled to sit amongst what felt like the students of Rebbe Akiva or Rebbe Chananya Ben Tradion. This is what it looked like. An entire community suffered a tragedy. Family and friends were sitting together struggling and stregnthening their faith and their resolve to do whatever it takes to serve Hashem.

I’m probably not explaining it well - I guess you had to be there; but I was priveleged to see and experience that there are still Jewish heroes. Fearless heroes for Eretz Yisroel, heroes for Torah and Mitzvos and champions of Jewish communitty! May G-d bless them - and us. I want to be a hero too!

We stopped for a few moments to pray at the Mearat HaMachpelah and I thought about how this was once the most coveted piece of land on Earth.

As we drove the wandering road out of Hebron we received a call. “ Mazal Tov! (Our daughter) Henna Gittel had a baby boy!”

Posted on 06/11 at 09:21 AM • Permalink
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Meet Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Rabbi Yaacov HaberRabbi Haber has been a leading force in Jewish Outreach for the past 25 years. A founding trustee of AJOP, the Association of Jewish Outreach Professionals, he was the founder and director of the Torah Center of Buffalo from 1980-1990 while serving as a community rabbi in Buffalo. From Buffalo he and his family traveled to Melbourne, Australia where as a project of Kollel Bais HaTalmud he founded the Australian Institute of Torah, a national outreach and adult education program. He directed that program from 1990-1995, at which time he was sought out as National Director of Jewish Education for the Orthodox Union in the United States where he created the Internationally acclaimed and highly successful "Pardes Project."

In addition to his duties at the OU, in 1996 he replaced Rabbi Berel Wein as the spiritual leader of Congregation Bais Torah in Monsey, NY. In keeping with the position of Congregation Bais Torah in the Monsey community, Rabbi Haber was involved in issues involving the greater Monsey community, and counseled hundreds of individuals in the surrounding area.

Rabbi Yaacov Haber is the founder and driving force behind TorahLab. Through TorahLab, Rabbi Haber is bringing together educational and media specialists to create dynamic learning experiences which will be accessible to adults of all backgrounds and levels. Rabbi Haber has published numerous articles and books and is a sought after international lecturer.

Rabbi Haber and his family are presently living in Ramat Beit Shemesh where he is the Rabbi of Kehillas Shivtei Yeshurun.

Rabbi Haber can be contacted at yhaber@torahlab.org