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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sweet Dream

It’s always fun to read a story about yourself. This is a true story as it appears in a new Artscroll book called “Stories For the Jewish Heart” by Rabbi B. Pruzansky. 

I thought I would share it.

Sweet Dreams

One special, golden Shabbos lay ahead on the horizon like a bright little ball of light. Rabbi Yaakov Haber loved the yearly Shabboton that his kollel hosted for the Jews of Melbourne Australia, and as it approached, his anticipation mounted. He loved the opportunity to share this gift of Shabbos with the many Jews who had never experienced it—to watch them slowly unwrap this gift and marvel at its beauty. Each facet of it - candle-lighting, Kiddush, blessing the children, davening, zemiros—brought renewed wonder to their eyes, and often, tears of joy as well.

Indeed, Shabbos itself was enough to move their hearts. But to penetrate their minds, to arouse an understanding of the Torah’s truth and perfection - that was another task entirely. And that task fell to Rabbi Haber. This year, as in years past, he would choose one topic and explore different aspects of it in the six seminars he would give throughout Shabbos. It had to be just right - an inspiring topic, illuminating sources and a crystal clear presentation. He dared not squander this brief, wide-open window of opportunity to inspire the audience that would be sitting before him, their souls silently longing to be reconnected with Hashem.

In this particular year, Rabbi Haber chose the topic of kedusha - living a life of holiness - as his theme. As the date of the Shabbaton approached, he began to research the topic and prepare his material for the seminar. Gradually, however, a sense of frustration began to build in him. Certainly, kedushah was explored and expounded upon in many sources, but something crucial was missing. There was the kind of insight that would make a person nod his head and say, “Oh, I see.” And then there was the kind that is like a ray of light—penetrates a person’s being and illuminates everything within him. That was the kind of insight Rabbi Haber needed to find, and he doggedly pursued it day after day.

Finally, time had nearly run out. It was the Shabbos before the Shabbaton, and he still hadn’t found what he was seeking. Inside him, he churned with anxiety, like an actor who had failed to learn his lines and was now awaiting his cue to step onto the stage. What would he have to offer these people who had come to be inspired by him?

He knew that this problem would not let him to sleep. He needed help, and he sought it. Before he went to bed that night, he unburdened his heart to Hashem, begging Him to please give him the wisdom and understanding to properly understand the meaning of kedusah. Having removed the load from his own shoulders, he finally felt he could relax. For the first time in several nights, he went right to sleep.

There, in the mysterious realm of dreams, he met an old man whose face was framed by a long, silky white beard. “What is wrong?” he gently asked.

Rabbi Haber explained that he was scheduled to give a seminar next week on kedusha, and yet, despite his diligent efforts, he still did not fully grasp the concept. He was terribly worried that his seminar would not be successful, and his chance to inspire all of these fellow Jews would be lost.

“Don’t worry,” the old rabbi reassured him. “I will help you. I will teach you all that you need to know.”

The rabbi began to expound upon kedusha. He patiently explained to his student six profound aspects of the topic, each with complete clarity.

When Rabbi Haber awoke the next morning, he nearly bounded from his bed. His entire being was charged with joy. Hashem had answered his tefillah, depositing the wisdom he longed for directly into his head. Except - what was it the rabbi had told him? The intricately woven threads of logic began to unravel in his hands and—like the dream itself—to dissipate into thin air. The more he tried to grasp the shreds of what remained, the farther away they receded.

He left for Shacharis. It was his custom as he entered the shul to take a sefer from the bookcase to keep with him during davening. In the time between Torah readings, he would open it and learn. On this morning, the sefer he happened to choose was called “Nesivos Sholom,” which was written by Rav Shalom Noach Berzovsky, the renowned Slonimer Rebbe.

The davening progressed, and the time came when there was a brief lull. Rabbi Haber opened the sefer like someone opening a letter, eager to find out what it has to say. To his amazement, the topic before him was none other than kedusha. As he scanned the words before his eyes, he felt a shock of recognition. This was it - the elusive dream, the six intricate explanations that had flooded him with joy and then receded beyond reach. They were here, in this sefer that was written by the Slonimer Rebbe and placed in his hand by Hashem Himself.

Rabbi Haber’s seminar was a tremendous success. Through his beautiful presentation, the audience had their eyes open to the soaring insights of the Slominer Rebbe and the complex subject of kedushah. But the most remarkable part of the whole event, in Rabbi Haber’s eyes, was Hashem’s direct answer to his tefillah.

Some time later, Rabbi Haber traveled to Eretz Yisrael, and high on his agenda was a visit to the holy Slonimer Rebbe whose Torah had illuminated his eyes. In fact, the Rebbe had already heard the story of Rabbi Haber’s dream from one of his chassidim who had visited Melbourne. He was eager to meet Rabbi Haber, and so a meeting was set.

“Tell me all the details of your dream,” the Rebbe urged when Rabbi Haber arrived at their meeting.

Rabbi Haber repeated everything he remembered, and as he spoke, a great smile spread across the Rebbe’s face.

“When I wrote the sefer *Nesivos Shalom,* I expended all of my energy to produce a fine work,” the Rebbe explained. “I had considered whether or not I should get a haskamah (a letter of endorsement). In the end I decided not to pursue it because I realized that I wouldn’t be able to find someone who was studying the topics in my sefer in as much depth as I had gone. But I have always felt distress that I did not get the customary haskamah. Now you have told me about your dream, and I see that Shomayim has chosen to answer your tefillah with my insights into kedusha. I see that Shomayim has agreed to the truth of my insights, and you have relieved me of all of my worries. Thank you so much.

As he left his meeting with this holy Jew, enveloped by his warmth and inspired by his ways, Rabbi Haber knew he had now completed his study of kedushah.

It sounds like a story of the Gedolim of old, but this is a miracle that happened in our own times. It reaffirms our belief that Hashem can answer any prayer at any time.

Posted on 09/11 at 10:19 PM • 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