Join Rabbi Haber's mailing list:
Home What's New Blogs Store Dedications Weekly Parshah About TorahLab Contact Us Links

Blogs

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Rosh Yeshiva

While learning in the Mir Yeshiva, I once approached Reb Nosson Tzvi Finkel with a difficulty that I had encountered in a gemara in Kesuvos.

The Rosh Yeshiva listened carefully to my articulated question and spent several minutes in thought. I stood awkwardly and averted my gaze as he twitched uncontrollably and swayed back and forth in apparent discomfort. Finally, he turned and told me that there were two possible approaches to my question. He outlined both approaches, complimented me on my question, and wished me a good day.

I was so excited. The Rosh Yeshiva had acknowledged my question! Quickly, I ran to my seat, opened my gemara, and began to pursue the two approaches that he had outlined. By the end of the morning, I had several pages of notes and had formed a new picture of the entire sugya.

Later that same week, Reb Nosson Tzvi gave a shiur klali. There were several hundred Torah scholars in attendance and, to my delight, he opened the shiur with my question. He shared the two approaches that we had discussed and another two approaches that he had, apparently, thought of afterward. I was ecstatic and flattered. I bought a copy of the printed notes of the lecture and knew that I would always treasure the shiur that I had inspired with my brilliant question.

Several months later I happened upon the same idea in a printed essay written by Reb Nosson Tzvi. Looking at the date of publication, I quickly realized that Reb Nosson Tzvi had thought of the question and explanation long before I had even opened my Gemara. He had written at length on the topic and come to the same conclusions many years before.

Reb Nosson Tzvi could have told me to look on page 66 of the Yad Eliezer, but he didn’t. Instead he chose to guide me and inspire me to find the answer on my own.

A Rosh Yeshiva is a teacher. He is not just the smartest man in the room, the policy setter, or the biggest tzaddik. He is a man who’s primary desire and goal in this world is to help young students develop into true Talmidei Chachamim.

The Gemara is very particular about teachers of Torah. A teacher of Torah, we are taught, must remind us of a heavenly angel.

What kind of angel is a Rosh Yeshiva?

Rav Yitzchak Ezrachi explains that every blade of grass and every flower is assigned an angel. The angel’s sole purpose is to stand over that grass or flower and encourage it to grow. Likewise, our Torah teachers need to be willing to stand over us and encourage us to grow. They need to be reminiscent of those angels.

Not all of my encounters with Reb Nosson Tzvi were flattering and buoyant. He could be very firm and did not always mince words. My ears are still ringing from a particular rebuke that Reb Nosson Tzvi whispered into my ear. At the time, I was confused by the rebuke and enthused by the compliments. Today, I can look back and just feel fortunate that a man such as he took the time to stand over me, look me in the eye, and tell me to grow.

Yehi Zichro Baruch.

On Parshas Vayeira: http://www.torahlab.org/outoftheloop/the_mayor_who_comes_to_bar_mitzvas/

Posted on 11/11 at 04:44 AM • Permalink
(2) Comments

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Am Ha’aretz

A friend of mine is the founder and director of a gardening program at the University of Maryland. They plant a garden, tend to it, and donate the fruits to the needy.

The students at Maryland call their program ‘Am Ha’aretz’, but I think that it could just as successfully be a program for budding Talmidei Chachamim. Not for me, because I hate gardening, but for the kids out there who want to work hard at Gemara for ten hours a day and plant cucumbers at night.

I read in The Google Story that the owners of Google have always encouraged their engineers to spend 20% of their time - about one day a week - working on personal projects that interest them. Gmail, Google News, and more than fifty percent of Google’s new products are a result of this creativity time. It is considered one of the secrets of Google’s success.

Google instituted the 20% policy to attract creative and talented people. The founders of Google understood that the brightest minds work best in environments that encourage and support creativity. Most of the personal projects don’t work or make no money, but Google always wins because they have the loyalty of the world’s best programmers and engineers.

Imagine if we could make this program a part of our culture. We already have highly motivated young men and women devoting their spare time to personal studies and chessed, but what if we encouraged them and gave them license to learn anything they wanted?

Imagine a yeshiva where students were encouraged to spend an hour and a half a day learning a subject of their choice. Students could choose Chassidus, Nach, Zeraim, Rambam, Tur, Shulchan Aruch, Rav Nachman’s stories, Taamei Haminhagim, Seder Hadoros, Medrash, Zohar, Ramban, Mussar, Responsa, Astronomy, Practical Rabbinics, Chofetz Chaim, Dikduk, Yerushalmi, or Gemara and Rashi. They could choose to learn quickly or slowly, to study one sefer in depth or to check out every commentary on the topic, to study alone or with a chavrusa, in their rooms, outside, or in the Beis Medrash.

Nobody would lose, because 80% of the time would still be spent on core curriculum; everybody would gain, because students who are already motivated they would be driven and satisfied by the opportunity to learn where their neshama leads them.

And what about the boys who aren’t driven to learn anything at all, or the boys who are satisfied to learn ‘just’ eight hours a day? Couldn’t they use their 20% to follow their hearts? We learn so much about how Noach cultivated kindness by caring for the animals and how Avraham built our nation on a foundation of Chessed. Why not let those students use their 20% to make their mark on the world?

Perhaps even more important are the students who deal with emotional and psychological challenges. What if they could devote 20% of their time learning more about themselves, their self worth, and their personal strategies for growth?

In my limited experience, I’ve found that kids who have trouble with the Yeshiva or Bais Yaakov system have trouble with just one thing. The “one thing” could be clothes, hair, music, or friends, but it is usually just one issue that makes it difficult for them to embrace the other 80% of the system that they love. I’ve found that even the students who are successful are not immune to frustrations – maybe they want to learn something else or at a different pace – it’s just that the nature of their frustrations make them easier to overcome and deal with.

Maybe we need an 80/20 formula. If a student is embracing 80% of ‘the system’, maybe we need to give them space to explore the other 20% on their own. As long as they are respecting halacha and not causing harm to themselves or others, maybe we need to let them be.

Many years ago, Rav Moshe Feinstein suggested that we give 10% (maaser) of our learning time to others. Maybe we need to take Google’s lead and teach our students to give 20% (a chomesh) of their productive time to themselves.

Jesse Rabinowitz and his troop of Am Ha’aratzim are exercising their “20%”. They are spending their time on a project that runs counter to the expectations that people have of serious Jewish college students, but they are not doing anything that precludes them from being serious Jewish college students. Am Ha’aretz tells me that their motivation is 100% Torah based and that they have regular learning sessions to connect Torah agricultural practices to their mission. They are doing something which is fulfilling and productive, but not at all expected. We need to encourage others to do the same.

The Torah doesn’t tell us to be successful despite our ambitions and aspirations; the Torah tells us to become successful by identifying the unique ambitions and aspirations that lie deep in our neshamos. Hashem told Avraham: “Lech Lecha!” –“Go to yourself!”, and at a time when the whole world was going one way, Avraham and Sarah were able to do just that. They picked themselves up and went the other way. They were doing something that had never been done before and they weren’t sure exactly where they were going or how things were going to turn out, but Hashem promised that as long as they followed in His ways it would be a journey full of bracha, hatzlacha, and closeness to Hashem.

For more on Lech Lecha see http://www.torahlab.org/calendar/article/blessing_of_the_bikers/

torahlab.org/outoftheloop

Posted on 11/01 at 05:15 PM • Permalink
(1) Comments

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Letter

Before my last trip to Israel, I invited my third grade students to write notes to G-d. There is an ancient custom to put messages in the Western Wall and I thought that it would be a meaningful and worthy exercise. I promised not to read the notes and encouraged the students to put serious thought into the words that they would write.

I watched with apprehension and awe as one girl wrote her letter with tears pouring down her cheeks. I knew that she was not crying because of the letter, but about some of the challenges that she was describing. It was awful to see her crying but touching to know to whom she was crying. I carefully placed all of the letters into one sealed envelope and packed it away for my trip. I assured the students that I would be a faithful messenger.

Later that night I received an emergency phone call. One girl had been home with the flu. Was there time to bring her letter over to my house?

The girl had used a tiny florist’s envelope to hold her letter. I don’t know what was on the note inside the envelope, but on the front of the envelope was a simple message in the careful handwriting of a ten-year-old:

“To: Hashem; From Chana”.

I don’t know what came over me, but I was overcome with emotion and struck by the beauty and plaintiveness of the letter. I stuck the envelope into my pocket and kept it with me as I boarded the plane a few hours later.

A trip to Eretz Yisroel is always an emotional experience, but this time I felt like so many of my emotions were articulated in that simple envelope. All of the logistics, politics, planning, excitement, and trepidation were encapsulated in those four words on the outside of the envelope. I was going to the land of Hashem and Hashem was waiting for and listening to my prayers.

I couldn’t control myself. I showed the envelope to my sister when she met me in New York and to the Rosh Yeshiva who sat down next to me on the plane. I showed it to the woman behind me on the escalator and to the couple in line with me at the border. I showed to a Christian Pilgrim at the baggage claim and to my family when I arrived at the wedding.

Finally, faithfully, even lovingly, I placed the tiny letters from the little girls into an ancient crack between the age worn stones of the Kosel.

I hope that all of my prayers are as pure and uncomplex as the prayers of those small children. I hope that we all merit to see our prayers find their way to Hashem’s throne as He blesses us with purity, sincerity, sensitivity, and connection to Hashem.

Posted on 10/06 at 05:25 PM • Permalink
(0) Comments

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Yom Kippur

In Parshas Haazinu, Moshe addressed the Heavens and the Earth.

The Medrash observes that if Moshe addressed the heavens, we can assume that they were affected by the words of Torah. If the words of Torah have the power to affect the heavens and the earth, they surely have the power to affect us.

The same is true in the reverse. Exposure to words of hatred, deceit, and immorality, has the power to make us hateful deceitful and immoral.

The Parsha goes on to describe what the Ramban describes as the natural cycle of the Jewish people. We are inspired by the Torah and achieve great things only to be led astray by the luxuries and ideas that we become exposed to. Finally, Hashem says “I will marginalize them; I will erase their memory”.

Thankfully, Hashem does not go through with his plans. “When Hashem judges his people; He changes His mind” - Hashem reconsiders, as it were, and does not allow us to fade into oblivion.

Why does Hashem change His mind in the midst of judgment? The Ramban writes that this is as a result of Moshes prayer on Yom Kippur. After the Jewish people sinned with the Golden Calf, Hashem told Moshe that he would destroy the Jewish people. For Forty days, Moshe begged Hashem to ‘protect His investment’ and not allow us to be completely destroyed. Finally, on Yom Kippur Hashem said, as we do at Kol Nidrei: “Salachti Kidvarecha” – “I have forgiven you”.

The Chidushei Harim writes that this is the meaning if the blessing of “Magen Avraham”. We thank Hashem three times daily for actively protecting the spark of Avraham within us. Even as we (sometines) work to extinguish that spark through what we hear and what we do, Hashem keeps His promise to Moshe and does not allow us to disappear.

On Yom Kippur, Hashem gives us a chance to separate ourselves from what we have become and return to that tiny spark. We have a chance to do teshuva and to make real changes. If we can keep from slipping back into our old habits, we can become truly changed people.

At a recent Sheva Berachos, my father told a story about Rav Chaim Sanzer.

Rav Chaim was once travelling in a wagon between two cities. As always, he was dressed regally in a noble peltz and all of the accoutrement befitting a Rebbe. Suddenly, the wagon slipped into a ditch. After coaxing the horses with no success, the driver turned apologetically to the Rebbe and asked him to help push the wagon. He then borrowed the Rebbe’s coat and put it under the wheels to help them gain purchase. Finally, he asked the Rebbe to get between the horses and help them pull the wagon out of the pit.

At this point the Rebbe was standing in his tzitzis, freezing, and caked in mud. He asked for a moment to pray.

“Ribono shel Olam!” he said, “I am sure that you have put me into this situation because I have sinned and need to repent. I will repent, but I cannot repent here in a ditch among the horses and covered with mud. Take me out of the pit. Bring me to a place of comfort. Then, I will do a proper Teshuva”.

And so it was.

Every year, on Yom Kippur, Hashem gives a chance to emerge from the pit which is our lives. He gives us a day of purity and cleanliness and a chance to do Teshuva.

This Yom Kippur, may we all merit to cleanse ourselves of all of our Aveiros and allow our true selves to shine.

G’mar Chasima Tova.

Posted on 10/04 at 02:59 AM • Permalink
(0) Comments

Friday, September 23, 2011

Who Was Rav Mordechai Feinstein?

We will never know who was Rav Mordechai Feinstein was.

Rav Moshe Feinstein was a well-known tzaddik and one of the foremost Halachic authorities of his generation. He wrote thousands of brilliant Teshuvos (responsa) and published seven volumes of Igros Moshe during his lifetime. An eighth volume was published several years ago and a ninth volume of Igros Moshe was published this month.

The ninth volume includes a section of responsa by Rav Moshe’s brother, Rav Mordechai Feinstein. It is twelve pages long.

I read the letters of Reb Mordechai and was mesmerized by their style. I was treated to a glimpse of Reb Mordechai’s scholarship and his clever and encompassing approach to issues. It was easy to get a feel for Reb Mordechai’s love of Torah and his burning desire to fulfill the will of Hashem.

I did some research into the Feinstein family and learned that at the beginning of the Bolshevik Revolution both Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Mordechai Feinstein led communities in Russia. They possessed a level of scholarship that, according to Reb Chaim Ozer Grodzensky, belonged to previous generations. They were throwbacks to earlier times. They were also Rabbis at a time when Judaism was all but illegal. Rav Mordechai ran a secret yeshiva in Shklov and Rav Moshe worked secretly to make the local municipal pool into a Kosher Mikva. Both brothers represented a level of sacrifice and love for Torah that we can only aspire to reach.

As it became apparent that there would not be another generation of Jewish Education in Russia, Rav Moshe Feinstein left the country and immigrated to New York. Over the next five decades, he was a source of halachic decisions, guidance, and advice to hundreds of thousands of Jews around the world. He was instrumental in teaching American Jewry how to apply ancient rules to modern shores. By the time of his passing in the 1980’s, he was considered by many to be the last word in Halacha. His volumes of responsa have become classics and can be found anywhere that Halacha is studied.

Reb Mordechai Feinstein did not come to America. He remained in Russia where he continued to teach Torah in secret. Many of his students did not survive the revolution and the war. Almost nothing remains of his teachings beyond the twelve pages in ninth volume of Igros Moshe.

One of the letters that we have from Rav Mordechai was written just before Rosh Hashana in 1923. It was written to Reb Mordechai’s uncle, Rabbi Yaacov Kantrowitz, and he alludes to some of the difficulties that they were facing in Russia. Knowing what I know, I couldn’t help but cry as I read Rav Mordechai’s concluding words to his uncle:

“May Hashem grant you and your family a year of health of the body and soul and clarity of mind. May you have a year of happiness, peace, and true peace. May you see Nachas from your children in Kletzk and may you watch them become truly great people…

“May Hashem increase the honor of the Torah and those who study it, thus increasing the honor of His entire nation.

Signed,

Mordechai Feinstein”

We now know that many of the prayers of Rav Mordechai were not fulfilled: Rabbi Kantrowitz’s son Yitzchok Yechiel was murdered by the Nazis outside Vilna. His daughter, Cheina Gittel, never left Leningrad and did not survive the war.

Rav Mordechai Feinstein himself was arrested not too long afterward. The Yevsektsia took him from his table while he was celebrating the holiday of Shavuos. They sent him to Siberia for the “crime” of teaching Torah and he was never heard from again.

Both Rav Moshe and Rav Mordechai lived holy lives that are worthy of our envy, but we can’t help but wonder what could have been if Rav Mordechai had lived long enough to parallel the great life of his brother.

We cannot question the ways of Hashem, but we can appreciate the questions that we ask ourselves on Rosh Hashana: Who will live? Who will prosper? Who will make a difference in the lives of others? Who will see nachas from their children? Who will celebrate Simchos with their friends? Who will realize their aspirations and who will have the chance to accomplish all that they can in this world?

This is the time of year when we need to think about what was and what could have been. We need to ask Hashem for the strength and opportunity to achieve everything that we are capable of.

May we all merit a year of true peace and prosperity. May we realize all of our dreams and experience only happiness and nachas. Most importantly, may we learn to take nothing for granted.

Kesiva V’Chasima Tova.

Read more about Elul and Rosh Hashana by downloading a collation of past posts and essays at http://www.torahlab.org/images/uploads/Elul_and_Rosh_Hashana_Collection_2011.pdf

Posted on 09/23 at 02:50 AM • Permalink
(0) Comments

Friday, September 16, 2011

Moving Forward

A number of years ago, my car hit high water. I called for help and AAA sent me a mechanic with North Carolinean plates. He had only two or three teeth, which he used endearingly to chew and spit real tobacco as he spoke.

The Mechanic explained to me that he had gotten out of bed at 4:00 AM so that he could drive up to Virginia and save stranded motorists. He looked over my car and got ready to give it a boost. He gave me his legal disclaimer:

“This might fix y’all’s car, but it could also fry y’all’s ‘lectricals”.

It seems that since the car was so saturated in moisture, there was a risk that the boost might cause the electrical system to short. If my ‘lectricals were fried, the car would never be the same. The windows wouldn’t open, the locks wouldn’t work, and the radio would fritz. My other option was to allow the car to dry out for three days, so I decided to take the chance and told him to go ahead with the boost.

The mechanic hooked up the wires, turned on the juice, disconnected the wires, and ran back to his truck. He fastened his seatbelt, rolled down his window, and, as he prepared to drive off, instructed me to wait a few minutes before trying to start the engine.

“Aren’t you going to wait to see what happens?” I asked.

“Naw”. (spit)

I pointed out to my new friend that he had been up since 4:00 am helping people. He had driven all the way up from North Carolina. He had worked in the pouring rain for hours. Yet, he would never know whether he had really saved someone’s day or just “fried their ‘ectricals”.

“That’s ‘boot right”, he said.

I’m not sure how that mechanic lives with himself. As human beings we need to know that our actions have an effect on people and that we are changing this world for the better.

Even the greatest and most selfless people yearn to see the impact of their actions. Rabbi Sternberg of Park Avenue in Monsey told me that he once consulted Rav Shach about an issue that he was dealing with. A few days later, Rabbi Strernberg came back to Rav Shach to let him know that he had taken his advice and that everything had worked out. Rav Shach, who had been in his seat in the Ponevizh Yeshiva, took Rabbi Sternberg by the shoulder, led him out of the Beis Medrash and kissed him.

“Hundreds of people come to me with their problems”, he explained, “they ask for my blessings and for my advice, but they never come back. I worry about those people, I carry the burden of those people and I pray for those people. I wish that they would let me know when everything works out and they are able to go on with their lives. Thank you for coming back.”

Last week my Chavrusa and friend Jimmy Ellenson and I celebrated a Siyum on Maseches Eduyos. We have finished several Masechtos together but this was to be our last siyum for a while. Jimmy is making Aliyah (and I am not).

We both spoke at the Siyum and acknowledged that we had influenced each other in profound ways. We didn’t just cover material; we developed an approach to the material. We evolved in our thinking and learned to agree and disagree about many issues. Jimmy got me through some tough times with his advice and assistance. He provided me with academic material and concepts that I would not have considered otherwise. I, in turn, encouraged Jimmy to learn like a Yeshiva Bochur would and allow the melody and the flow of the Gemara to surround him and take over his mind and soul.

In a constantly changing world, where you never know whether you enhanced somebody’s life or just ‘fried their ‘lectricals’, it is heartening to know that we have made a difference in each other’s lives.

I will miss Jimmy and look forward to the day when we can continue to learn together in our holy land, with or before the coming of Moshiach.

In honor of the siyum, I put some of our notes into book form. It is our humble contribution to a very small body of literature on Eduyos. The Electronic version is available at http://www.torahlab.org/images/uploads/Eduyos_booklet.pdf.

Posted on 09/16 at 02:12 AM • Permalink
(0) Comments

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Blind Man’s Outlook

My Great-Uncle Nat was blind. As kids we were fascinated by his talking watch and the way that he counted steps. We would talk about how all of his clothing were matching so that he could get himself dressed in the morning. We did not fully grasp the implication of his handicap. We just thought that it was cool.

Once, while davening at his shul in Florida, a friend pointed out that Uncle Nat was using someone else’s tallis bag. He had apparently swapped it accidentally and had been using it, unaware that the name embroidered on the front was not his own. Nobody recognized the name on the bag and Uncle Nat, who travelled around a bit, had no idea where he had picked it up. He decided that he would continue to use the bag. One day, somebody might recognize the name and help him return it.

Three years later Uncle Nat was in Lawrence sitting Shiva for his sister, my Aunt Hattie. As groups of people made their way through the house, one man recognized his Tallis bag and asked if he could have it back.

Uncle Nat began to cry tears of joy. I don’t remember the exact words that he used, but it went something like this:

“I am over ninety years old and blind. When does a man like me get the opportunity to return a lost object? Blind men don’t find things. I thank G-d for giving me the opportunity to do this Mitzvah before I die.”

He kissed the tallis bag and returned it to its proper owner.

We need to thank G-d that we have the ability to help others.

Posted on 09/11 at 04:12 PM • Permalink
(2) Comments

Friday, June 17, 2011

Branching Out

Sometimes I get the feeling that my Turkish ancestors are staring at me. They probably wonder why I’m wearing a black Fedora and not a Red Fez with a pom-pom. They wonder why I rush through some parts of davening and relegate others to long, drawn out marches. They probably wonder about my accent, my mannerisms and my kids who carry the names of deceased relatives rather than more familiar names like Mazaltov and Machlouf.

Yitzhak ben Tzvi compared the Jewish people to the Paroches in the Mishkan. He wrote that we are a tapestry made up of many different threads. We all come together to make something beautiful, but when we are apart our similarities disappear. His words were beautiful and they are printed on every twenty sheqel note in Israel.

I think he was wrong.

We are not the Paroches; we are the Menorah. The Menorah was made of one solid piece of gold, yet it forms seven diverse branches. We are all united at the core and made of the same stuff.

To often, we try to shove one type of Jew into another Jew’s clothing. We think that Jews who believe the same way must feel and act the same way as well. When my great-grandparents were impressed they would use words like “W’allah” or “Harika”; when my students are impressed they say “Awesome!” or “Beast”. They have the same belief systems but different ways of expressing themselves.

Last Shabbos I had the opportunity to spend time at the Bar Mitzvah of one of my favorite students. It was a Purely Sefardic Shabbos and it was packed with songs, mannerisms, and customs that I was not used to. I thought about my Sefardi grandparents and allowed their blood to course through my veins for just one weekend. It worked, and it opened up my eyes to the vastly different ways that my students relate to Yiddishket. Each one of my students has a different Neshama with different interests, different emotions, different sensitivities, and different motivations. In my Tefillos, I thought of my graduating students and prayed that I had respected the individuality of each and every one of them. The Bar Mitzvah boy made my day when he reached the end of his speech and proclaimed his unique thanks:

“Rabbi Haber”, he intoned, “thank you for teaching me Torah. You are a Beast Rebbe!”

Nobody was sure what he meant, but I’m sure that my ancestors were proud.

Posted on 06/17 at 02:47 AM • Permalink
(0) Comments

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Taking the Plunge

Three thousand three hundred and seventeen years ago, Moshe announced to the Jewish people that He would be ascending Har Sinai to receive the Torah for the Jewish people. The Jewish people protested. They said: “רצוננו לראות את מלכנו” – we want to see our G-d; we want to receive the Torah directly from it’s author. Moshe transmitted the Jewish peoples’ beautiful request to Hashem. Hashem agreed and gave Moshe detailed instructions on how the people must prepare and purify themselves for a three-day period. The people rejoiced at the news and enthusiastically threw themselves into the task of preparing to literally ‘meet their creator’ and receive his Torah.

By the third day everything was in place. The purification process was completed and at dawn and shofaros and thunder were heard. The presence of Hashem began to descend on Har Sinai.

Nobody showed up.

Moshe quickly ran back to the camp and spoke to the people. He woke them, comforted them, calmed them, and convinced them to come to Har Sinai and receive the Torah. Our sages tell us that Hashem himself came toward the camp to greet and encourage our forefathers as they gathered beneath the mountain to receive the Torah.

This is very strange. The Jewish begged for an audience with Hashem, but needed to be convinced to attend!

As children we are taught that the Jewish people were sleepyheads – they just forgot to set their alarm clocks. This does not explain what happened to the initial excitement , the statement of ‘retzoneinu lir’os es malkeinu- we want to see our G-d’.

The Jewish people had been the Chosen people since the times of Avraham and the Bris Bein Habesarim. Nonetheless, this was the first time that the people were forced to make a commitment to Hashem. It could be said that until now the Jewish people had enjoyed a very long engagement. Har Sinai was to be the wedding ceremony between Bnai Yisroel and Hashem. The Torah was the contract, the rules and the promises that came with the relationship. When it came to actually tying the knot our forefathers were scared. They were the first (and only) nation in history to enter into a covenant with G-d. All of the other nations refused the Torah out right but the Jewish people – with a little encouragement from Moshe and from Hashem himself were able to take the plunge, tie the knot and make the commitment.

Generations later we have a close relationship with Hashem because our forefathers made that plunge.

Sometimes in order to grow as people and as Jews we need to be strong enough to do something new; to take on something daunting. often we do not need that strength, because it’s already been done by our fathers and their fathers before them.

We can stay up studying Torah on Shavuos with no apprehension or fear because our grandfathers already jumped that hurdle and showed us how wonderful a close relationship with Hashem can be.

At a wedding there is a minhag for the Chossan to step forward to greet the Kallah as she walks down to the Chuppa. Every Friday night we sing the words “Lechah Dodi Likraas Kallah” asking Hashem to please come out and greet us and encourage us once again just as He did at Har Sinai and bring Moshiach speedily in our days.

Material Related to Shavuos:
The Defining Moment http://www.torahlab.org/outoftheloop/definition/
Threee on Makom Torah http://www.torahlab.org/outoftheloop/by_invitation_only/

Posted on 06/07 at 05:10 AM • Permalink
(0) Comments

Friday, June 03, 2011

Getting the Hint

In Parshas Nasso each one of the Nesi’im (Tribal leaders) had a chance to participate in the inauguration of the Mishkan. Each day another Nasi would be bring the sacrifice, and each day the Nasi’s sacrifice would mimic the sacrifice of the Nasi before him.

A cursory look into the Midrash Rabbah shows us that the sacrifices were not identical at all. Each nasi had his own unique and independent thoughts in mind when he made his offering. Each brought the same silver, the same animals and the same incense, but each sacrifice was totally different.

Tonight I had the privilege of hearing a talk from Rabbi Shabsi Werther. Rabbi Werther used to be my principal and he put a lot of effort into training me as a teacher. I was friendly with his son Sholom Benayahu and even spoke at his Bar Mitzvah where he made a Siyum on a large portion of Mishnayos. Unfortunately, Sholom died nineteen months ago as a result of a hit and run accident.

Our local institutions began a program in memory of Shalom. Every Thursday night, boys from the elementary school get together with boys from the high school and learn Mishnayos in Shalom’s memory. There are prizes and treats, but one of the greatest treats is Rabbi Werther’s yearly visit to address the boys and thank them.

Rabbi Werther spoke about how each and every Jew is hinted to in the Torah. Rabbi Werther has found dozens of hints to his son Shalom’s life in the Torah and he made the point that none of us have a right to feel insignificant or unimportant. Each and every one of us is a piece of Hashem’s plan and each of us has something unique to offer. There is a purpose to every life and it can be found in the Torah.

What a beautiful thought to hear from a parent who lost his child. Every child is special. Every person is unique. Rather than wallow in grief, Rabbi Werther sees the purpose of his son’s tragically short life in every piece of Torah he learns.

Where can we be found?

Rabbi Werther’s new book: Zayis Ra’anan: The Gift of the Fresh Olive, can be found at“>http://www2.xlibris.com/books/webimages/wd/99021/index.html"> http://www2.xlibris.com/books/webimages/wd/99021/index.html

A previous article on Sholom can be found at http://www.torahlab.org/outoftheloop/the_grandest_finale/

Posted on 06/03 at 03:56 AM • Permalink
(1) Comments

Friday, May 27, 2011

If You Can Read This T-shirt - My Rabbi Fell Off

Have you ever been stuck at a traffic light next to a Harley Davidson? Did you watch the driver fidget and crank his motor? Did the roar when he or she finally took off scare you out your mind?

You shouldn’t be scared; You should be inspired.

Bikers know that it is hard to balance a bike when you are standing still and that it is very frustrating to sit on top of a sixty-five horsepower engine and go nowhere. Bikers also know that the roar of a Harley is indicative of potential. Both the engine and the rider want to see that potential actualized.

Our souls work in much the same way. There is a quiet but powerful voice within us that wants to roar with spirituality. It wants to break loose, speed forward and conquer the open road. We are the custodians of powerful and frustrated engines that are yearning to exercise their true potential.

Almost one hundred years ago, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan of Radin wrote a book on Proper Speech and tried selling it door-to-door. He found that many people refused to buy it. The idea of changing habits of speech was simply beyond the collective imagination. Rabbi Kagan was not discouraged. “It was worth writing my book”, he said, “if just one Jew give a krechtz and spends a moment thinking about proper speech”.

We can never underestimate the power of a krechtz and its’ role in articulating the yearning of a Jewish soul.

Two weeks ago I was riding on the back of bike #10 in a procession of hundreds of Jewish Bikers commemorating the holocaust. I lifted my visor and took a good look at the crowds lining the roads and staring at us. Many of the spectators were unaffiliated Jews who had no idea that we were coming. They didn’t know that Jewish Bikers existed, much less three hundred of them. I thought about all of the Jewish Bikers who weren’t riding with us. They must have felt a twinge of guilt and yearning when they watched us roar by. They might have thought about their Judaism for the first time in years. They might have wished that they could be like those proud Jews who wave their Jewish Flags, play their Jewish music and belong to clubs with names like Lost Tribe, Chai Rider, and Hillel’s Angel’s. We probably made a lot of people Krechtz that day.

Many of the riders at the convention are very active Jews. Others were just born Jewish. They may not keep Kosher or go to shul or think about G-d much, but their pent up Jewish souls are turning over, trying to break loose. They may not know Kaddish from Cottage Cheese, but they ride as Jews and something drove them to gather together for a Jewish event.

Elena Baum, head of the Federation’s Holocaust commission, was speechless when we showed up at the JCC’s Holocaust Memorial. I guess she’d never been visited by three hundred bikers before. She was a little bit intimidated - but proud. Our local rabbis and community leaders all commented on the Jewish Pride of the Bikers. The short Divrei Torah and Divrei Brocha were well received and they were peppered with enthusiastic shouts of “Amein” and “Am Yisroel Chai”. Cameras rolled as Rabbi Silver (of Bnai israel) spoke passionately about the need to perpetuate the memory of the Six Million through deeds as well as thought. The Biker Rebbe, Reb Zachary “Zig Zag” Betesh spoke of the sparks that can be gathered from the road and the miles of asphalt that make up his shul. I shared a few short words before leading the assembled in the traditional Traveler’s Prayer and at the end of the service everyone stood solemnly as Chazzan Berman recited a stirring Kel Maleh Rachamim.  The Ride to Remember was a powerful experience and one that will be reflected upon for a long time to come.

Ten years ago, when I first told my grandfather that I was moving to Norfolk, VA, he was horrified. He had been here as a sailor in World War II, and was sure that I’d be living above a tattoo parlor and next door to a bar. Understandably, he never saw the motorcycle thing coming. Today, as he looks at pictures of his Norfolk einekel clad in a do-rag and wearing leather jackets, he sees the more spiritual side of Norfolk. He sees a bunch of tough looking guys who compete for the opportunity to carry to a Yeshiva Bochur with tzitzis for hundreds of miles on their Harley. Guys who are willing to call the most distant Jew and say: “You’re Jewish - come ride with us”.

So next time you hear a biker gunning his engine at a red light, think about his Neshama - and yours. Krechtz a little bit. Think about what you have always known that you can accomplish. When the light turns green - ‘let her rip’. Go full speed ahead and don’t stop moving. Don’t slow down until you have made your unique mark on the world that Hashem has given you.

I shared with those assembled at the Ride that Hitler thought that we would never survive. He even commissioned a museum to commemorate “The Lost Race”. Our job is to show the world that the Race is still on. Collectively and individually, we are still here and we are still riding.

Am Yisroel Chai!

Pictures

Posted on 05/27 at 03:13 AM • Permalink
(2) Comments

Friday, April 29, 2011

Pirkei Avos

I am fortunate to have grown up in a home which put great emphasis on Pirkei Avos. Boruch Hashem, the enthusiasm has carried on to my young students who have been begging for weeks: “Rabbi Haber, when can we start Pirkei Avos?”

I believe that we begin Pirkei Avos in the weeks after Pesach to emphasize that leaving Egypt and slavery was not enough. We need to continue to work on ourselves, to strive for more and to grow as people.

When we tell the story of Pesach we are instructed to “begin with Bad and end with Praise”.

Why aren’t we told to “begin with Bad and end with Good”? Wouldn’t that be more appropriate?

The Mishna is recognizing that Pesach is not the end. Even the first Pesach wasn’t perfect. We were able to praise Hashem, but we still had a long way to go.

Even in Hallel, which should be the ultimate praise of Hashem, we cannot help but interrupt with a plea of “Anah Hashem” - “Please Save us Hashem!”. It is not contradictory to praise Hashem while simultaneously look forward to something better.

On the last day of Pesach an older woman in our Shul shared a Pesach experience with me. She told me that in 1942, she was a young girl in Belgium and her father, a religious Jew, did not have access to a Jewish calendar. He estimated when Pesach would be and was able to procure one bag of black flour. As the family stood around, he baked one round Matzah and together they recited the Brachos and ate their ‘bread of freedom’. That was their Pesach.

Was that Pesach ‘good’? I don’t think so. But it was a chance to praise Hashem. The family had been previously torn apart. They had survived trying times. Finally, they were able to reunite and celebrate together as Jews. They even had some flour and an oven. They had plenty to thank Hashem for, but they had even more to hope for in the future.

Pesach is a holiday of freedom and of praise. It is not the end of the road. Even as we celebrate our freedom from slavery, we begin to count the days to the giving of the Torah on Shavuos.

May we always be fortunate to have the opportunity to continue to grow and to have young Jewish boys who are anxious to learn ancient texts on character refinement.

I have put together some material on the first chapter of Pirkei Avos. Please use the link below.

Pirkei Avos - Chapter One (45 pages)

Also, don’t miss the upcoming Jewish Motorcycle Alliance’s convention in Virginia Beach. Our local president and founder, Mike Ashe, wrote a great article entitled Kosher Hogs for the UJFT blog. I noticed that he left out several details in order to make it sound more like a tea party and less like a convention of Jewish Motorcyclists.

Posted on 04/29 at 02:17 AM • Permalink
(0) Comments

Monday, April 18, 2011

Born Free

When we left Egypt, we were so free that we could never been enslaved again. Of course, we’ve had our share of servitude over the years. We’ve seen plenty of persecution, suffering, and abuse throughout the years. Still, nobody can truly enslave the Jewish nation. We possess a neshama and a mission that simply cannot be subdued or neutralized. Hashem has made us free.

About ten years ago, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks visited the Windsor Castle and delivered a lecture in the presence of Prince Philip. The Windsor Castle is the oldest inhabited castle in the world and has seen much of the glory of the British Empire as well as the dark stains of the expulsion of the Jews from England by Edward I in 1290 and other incorrigible massacres and libels.

Rabbi Sacks began his lecture by acknowledging the unique experience of growing up in a castle. He pointed out that a young prince or princess would have no choice but to take note of the deep history of their home and the expectations, protocols, morals, and obligations that came along with it.

“Jews don’t own buildings like Windsor Castle”, he continued, “We are not that kind of people. But we own something that is, in its own way, no less majestic and even more consecrated by time. The Jewish castle is built not of bricks or stone, but of words. But it too has been preserved across the centuries, handed on by one generation to the next, added to and enhanced in age after age, lovingly cherished and sustained. As a child I inherited it from my parents, as they had inherited it from theirs. It is not a building but it is nonetheless, a home, a place in which to live. More than it belongs to us, we belong to it; and it too is part of the heritage of mankind.”

As hard as people try to remove us from our heritage and to burden us with their prejudices and ideas, we remain free. We are free to feel and act and think as Jews. We are free to fulfill our role of being a light unto the nations and to make all of our decisions based on the will of G-d.

This can be a freedom that is hard to relate to as individuals. Reb Yitzchak Ezrachi of the Mir Yeshiva points out that on Pesach we celebrate the duality of our the escape from the bondage of Egypt as well as the opportunity to live and fulfill our own individual freedom to act and think as Jews.

During the year we become burdened by hangups, Mishegassin, addiction, bad habits and plain laziness. On Pesach, we can tap into the power of the seder to break out of our bondage and live in true freedom.

About a year ago I met a new friend who had made some bad mistakes and was in a lot of trouble. He had been passing through Virginia on a trip and made the terrible decision of picking up some untaxed merchandise for resale in New York. It seemed like a victimless crime, he was desperate for the money, and he figured that the worst that could happen was a slap on the wrist.

He could not have been more wrong. My friend ended up in a jail cell with veteran smugglers who ran entire smuggling rings across state lines. On paper, he was just as bad as they were. He told me that he didn’t know if he would stay in that cell for ten minutes, ten hours or ten years. He was petrified.

Fortunately, with some help from the right people, Moshe was able to get out on bail and begin the long, expensive, and embarrassing process of trying to avoid a decade in prison.

I suppose that there are some criminals with no regrets and no remorse. This young man was both regretful and remorseful and my wife and I made a decision to help him out.

As we worked together on the statement for the judge, Moshe made an exclamation to the effect of the following: “I just want to be free from this whole thing”, he said, “I want to be free from prison, free from lawyers, free from Askonim and free from all of these statements and decisions. I want to be free to start again, to get a normal job, to support my family, pay my rent and get on with life”.

He may not have used those exact words, but those were his exact feelings. They should be our feelings too.

As one of the local lawyers put it: “I forgot the word for it, but I learned in Yeshiva that people that look like you don’t belong in situations like these”. We get ourselves trapped in situations where we do not belong. We need to learn to break free, to follow our heart and to reset our moral compasses.

On the night before the trial Moshe stayed at my house in Norfolk. By 11:30 his family, his friends, the askonim, and the lawyers had all gone to sleep. Only the two of us were awake and as I prepared for bed I asked if there was anything else that I could do for him. He had a long day of travelling, meetings and decisions behind him and an important day in court before him. He asked for a Gemara Sukkah and a chavrusa. It wasn’t that he felt like a tzaddik or wanted to impress me. He just wanted to connect with Hashem and to free his Neshama of the burdens that he had brought upon himself. He wanted to reconnect with the freedom that we achieved when we left Egypt to receive the Torah.

We reviewed the Gemara, consulted the Rashi’s, and examined the Tosafos. We made a small diagram and arrived at a satisfactory conclusion. It was past midnight when we finally closed our Gemaras. We were both exhausted but we had no regrets at all. We had connected with something sane, something real, and something that would last beyond our present issues.

Last Monday, just as I was returning from Israel, Moshe received his final verdict. The judge allowed him to walk away with no more jail time, no more parole, and no more investigations. He has large fines and many bills to pay, but he is free to continue with his life and spend Pesach with his family. He was very grateful and sent me and the lawyer a box of Matzah, which I received at the end of last week.

At first I was perplexed by Moshe’s odd choice of gifts. I already had Matzos (Baruch Hashem!). My wife pointed out to me that the matzos from Moshe were more than just free matzos. These matzos were Matzos of Freedom. These Matzos were the most relevant and meaningful gift that I could possibly receive from a man who had just learned the true meaning of freedom. This was a man who would truly celebrate Pesach.

Every Pesach, as we eat our Matzah, we think of and experience the same taste that our forefathers tasted as they rushed out of Mitzrayim. This year, I’ll also be thinking of my individual matzos. I’ll be thinking of the freedom that each one of us has the ability and obligation to achieve in our own lives.

May we merit to truly feel the words which we articulate as we begin Hallel at the seder::

“Therefore we must thank, praise, pay tribute, glorify, exalt, honor, bless and acclaim the One who performed all these miracles for our fathers and for us: He took us from slavery to freedom, from grief to joy, from mourning to Yom Tov, from darkness to great light, out of bondage to. We will burst out in a new song before Him! Hallelukah!”

Posted on 04/18 at 04:34 AM • Permalink
(1) Comments

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Citizens of the World

The Torah instructs the Metzora to end his or her period of isolation and repentance by bringing an offering that includes (among other things) a branch of a cedar tree and two birds.

How is it that the Metzora, who is afflicted with a form of leprosy because of his habits of haughtiness and chatter, would bring an atonement sacrifice that includes Cedar and Fowl? Don’t the tall cedar tree and the chirping birds recall the very traits of haughtiness and chatter that got him or her into trouble to begin with?

At my sister’s Sheva Berachos in Ramat Beit Shemesh I attempted to answer this question by sharing my experiences as a jurist for the Norfolk circuit court.

The defendant was a young man who was accused of kicking a policeman while intoxicated. My fellow jurors and I listened closely to the testimony and unanimously voted to declare the defendant Guilty. The young man was sentenced to between one and five years in prison - at our discretion.

As an American Citizen I was proud that I would serve on this man’s jury and, along with my fellow citizens, ensure that the Kicker received no more and no less than the consequence that he rightly deserved.

As we entered the Jury Chamber, one woman set the tone for the discussion:

“I don’t know about y ‘all”, she said. “but I don’t want to be meeting this man in the K-mart Parking Lot. I vote to put him behind bars for as long as possible”. As I watched with shock and disappointment, each one of the jurors around the table slowly nodded in confirmation. They were voting to keep a man who had done very little wrong behind bars for as long as possible, just so that they would not have to deal with him.

I was the proverbial Twelfth Juror and, sitting as I was between the jurists and the door to the courtroom, the defendant’s fate was in my hands. I made an impassioned plea for sanity and, after much argument, managed to exact a compromise of three years.

We handed our decision to the judge, and the verdict was handed down.

As we watched the poor young man leave the courtroom in chains, I couldn’t help but wonder what the world would lose by putting this man behind bars for three years. I was shocked by the insensitivity of a group of people who could say, “we don’t need him, he’s not important, just put him somewhere where we can’t see him.”

The phrase “I don’t need him” articulates precisely the haughtiness and talk that gets the Metzorah into trouble. Haughtiness can be the most destructive element in even an exemplary and fair society like the one that we live in.

Yet, we don’t ask the Metzorah to give up his haughtiness. We allow him to keep it and even celebrate it by marking the end of his purification process with a piece of Cedar. This is because haughtiness is not really bad. Cedar is used to described wise people and the Torah teaches us that a person who is haughty in the ways of Hashem will go further than any other.

Good haughtiness causes a person to realize that with the help of others they can become great. Good haughtiness causes a person to say: “I need him”, “he is important”, and “I have great goals that can’t be accomplished without him”.

My sister and her new husband, for example, exemplify the type of Haughtiness that King David prayed for. They know that G-d expects great things from them and, rather than exclude others, they understand the value and importance of including and learning from every person. They have circled the globe and found that everyone in this world has something unique that can help them grow. They respect people and are respected in return. They help people and really believe that they are receiving more than they can ever give. Nobody is dispensable. Like the imposing Cedar, they spread their roots and know to appreciate and draw upon the unique qualities of everyone around them.

The Chosson and Kallah employ the ultimate strategy in growth, and it works.

May we merit to watch my sister, her husband, and many more young couples like them grow to build Jerusalem into the center of the Universe, an all-inclusive and beautiful home for the Jewish people.

This week, I merited to visit Eretz Yisroel for the first time in over five years. I reunited with many people who I love dearly, as well as scores of new friends. Among those who I met were many readers of this blog. I appreciate their kind words and I will endeavor to deliver the quality that they deserve.

I am including links to several Pesach related materials that I have worked to create for my students. Some are new and others have been updated from previous years. Please contact me with any questions.

Uploads on the Hagada (prepared for my students).

Hagada Companion (56 pages)

Hilchos Haseder (43 pages)

Sugyos Haseder (Part I, 22 pages)

More posts on Pesach:

The Double Dip

The Call of the Turtledove

Bongo Without a Cause (on Unity)

Bottle It

Making Kadesh Last

Our National Bar Mitzvah (Shabbos Hagadol)

The Hardest Chametz to Remove

Chag Kasher Vesame’ach!

Posted on 04/07 at 05:25 PM • Permalink
(0) Comments

Friday, March 18, 2011

Why a Shul?

The most important asset that we have is our Torah. We are the People of the Book. The study of the Written and Oral Torah is the most important Mitzvah in the Torah and the foundation upon which all of Judaism stands. The most important book of the Oral Law is the Mishna, written by Reb Yehudah Hansi.

Reb Yehuda Hanasi was the codifier of the Oral Law and the undisputed leader of his generation. He had a Yeshiva in Babylon where he taught the Mishna to hundreds of scholarly students.

Imagine visiting Reb Yehuda Hanasi’s yeshiva, spending time there and absorbing the atmosphere. It must have been amazing. Even today, walking into any yeshiva is an awesome and inspiring experience in observing the continuity and hard work that goes into who we are as a people.

Yet, as important as Torah is, Reb Yehuda Hanasi taught his students that the reading of the Megilla is even more important than Torah study. (Although the Megilla is Torah too, it did not require the same depth and self-sacrifice that Reb Yehuda Hanasi’s students were accustomed to).

The Gemara tells as that Reb Yehuda did not just suspend his classes for the reading of the Megilla. He would actually close his Yeshiva and have all of the students leave the Yeshiva and go to the local shul to hear the Megilla.

In the times of the Geonim many people had the custom of gathering a Minyan in their homes on Purim and read the Megilla for their friends and family. The Hagahos Ashri criticized them by citing Rebi’s practice: If Reb Yehuda Hanasi left his Yeshiva to go to shul, we should certainly leave the coziness of our homes to hear the Megilla in a Beis Hakneses.

A Beis Hakneses has a unique holiness that supersedes even the study of Torah in Reb Yehuda Hanasi’s own Yeshiva!

What is a Beis Haknesses?

The Rambam in the Laws of Prayer writes the following:

“Any location that is populated by ten Jews is obligated to appropriate a house where they can congregate for prayer whenever it is time to pray. This place is called a Beis Haknesses.” (Rambam, Mishna Torah, Laws of Prayer, Chapter 12)

Residents of a city may actually force each other to build a shul and (according to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch) fine them if they do not help make the Minyan.
The main criterion for a Beis Hakneses is community involvement.

When the Mishkan was built, each Jew needed to donate at least half a Shekel to the building of the Mishkan, and these half-shekels were melted down to create the Adanim – the Base of the Mishkan. The strength of the Beis hamikdash came from its status as Tel Piyos – The Mountain toward which everyone prayed, and the daily Tamid needed to be financed by the Jewish people as a group. If a city was late in submitting its share of the Machatzis Hashekel, the Bais Hamikdosh would put out money. The show could not go on without them.

Many of us could pull ten men together and hold a Friday night minyan or a Megilla reading in our homes, but even if we could pull the ten holiest Jews alive into our minyan, the Kedusha of the Minyan would not approach the holiness of a simple Beis Haknesses.

A Beis Hakneses is the holiest building that a city can have, but it is only a Beis Haknesses because it is the sum total of the efforts, abilities and self-sacrifice of every person in it.

May we all merit to continue to build our Batei Knessiyos and make sure that they live up to the standards of the legendary students of Reb Yehuda Hanasi. We need to imagine them leaving their world-class Yeshiva and heading for our little shuls saying: “That is where we want to hear the Megilla”.

Posted on 03/18 at 03:45 AM • Permalink
(0) Comments
Page 9 of 15 pages « First  <  7 8 9 10 11 >  Last »

Subscribe to this blog

RSS Feed

Meet Rabbi Sender Haber

Rabbi Sender Haber is the Rabbi of the B'nai Israel Congregation in Norfolk, VA. He is well known throughout Hampton Roads, having arrived over twelve years ago as one of the original four members of the Norfolk Area Community Kollel. In that capacity, Rabbi Haber was involved in community wide programming, teaching, and outreach. He has inspired many Jews to expand their Jewish identity and increase their love of Torah and commitment to its observance. Everyone who knows Rabbi Haber is touched by his breadth of Torah knowledge and his ability to convey the wisdom of the ages in such a way as to make those esoteric writings accessible to persons of all levels of experience and a variety of backgrounds.

Rabbi Haber has served in a number of capacities during his years in Norfolk. Since 2003 Rabbi Haber has been a teacher of Jewish Studies at Toras Chaim Day School in Portsmouth, teaching boys and girls of all ages, with a focus on Gemara, Halacha, and Chumash. He has also taught at Yeshivas Aish Kodesh and Bina High School in Norfolk, and served as Assistant Rabbi of B’nai Israel for 6 years. He also serves as the Rabbi of the “Lost Tribe,” Tidewater’s Jewish Motorcycle group! While handling all of these responsibilities, he has continued to participate in numerous Chavrusos (one-on-one learning partnerships) covering a wide range of topics and writings.

Rabbi Haber and his wife Chamie have been married for thirteen years. They have four children, Minna (9), Moshe (6), Ely (4), and Akiva Meir, born in August of 2012. They both come from rabbinic families steeped in Torah, Kiruv and Chesed. Rabbi Haber received his Rabbinic Ordination (Yoreh Yoreh) from Rabbi Sender Rosenbloom and Rabbi Mordechai Freidlander of the Jerusalem Beth Din. He was awarded a Teaching Certificate by Torah Umesorah Association for Jewish Day Schools in 2004 and again in 2009. In addition, Rabbi Haber has spent over a decade studying Talmud, Jewish Law, and ethics in some of the world’s most prestigious Yeshivos including Beth Medrash Gavoha in Lakewood, NJ and Yeshivas Mir in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Haber can be contacted through the Synagogue office at 757-627-7358, or through e-mail at senderhaber@gmail.com