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Monday, October 06, 2008

The Door

Calvin Bakov supplies liqueur to the military. He owns thousands of dollars in alcohol which he keeps in his warehouse. He is not allowed to touch it.

Because the liqueur is exempt from certain taxes, the government keeps Mr. Bakov’s property under lock and key. It is his liquor but he is not allowed into the room.
While Mr. Bakov is a personal friend and a very honorable man, the Talmud likens his situation to one who has much Torah but no fear of G-d. He has all of the keys to the inner chambers but he has no access to the main entrance.

This is a situation in which so many of us find ourselves in the days before Yom Kippur. We know what Hashem wants, we know about the treasures and the joys that are in the Torah, but we can’t seem to get in the front door.

The Gemara tells the story of Nikanor. Nikanor was a special man who was determined to create something special for Hashem. He undertook to craft the worlds finest copper doors and transport them from Egypt to Yerushalayim. The doors were his project, his contribution to history and his way of coming close to Hashem. After months of work he loaded the finished doors onto a ship and headed through the Mediterranean. As he was traveling the ship encountered a storm and was in danger of sinking. In an effort to save the tanking ship the panicked seamen threw one of Nikanors beloved doors overboard.
Nikanor took solace in his one remaining door, but before long that door too was slated to be thrown overboard. In an act of desperation, Nikanor clung to the remaining door. Life did not seem worth living if his dreams were to be dashed to the sea. Finally, Hashem had mercy and the storm subsided. When Nikanor reached the port in Akko he was pleased to find that his lost door had miraculously remained in the undertow of the boat and followed him to the port. Both doors made the journey across the sea.

Reb Shalom Schwadron points out that this story happens more often than we might think. We all have ambitions, goals, and grand plans. Often, we are successful in seeing our goals through to accomplishment. But sometimes a storm breaks out, turbulent times strike and we have no choice but to surrender our dreams to the winds and the waves. We struggle just to survive. Nikanor worked hard but his plan became unfeasible. After weeks of work and months of dreaming he was forced to throw his precious doors out to sea.

Lofty goals are hard to attain and easy to lose. Like Nikanor, we need to show determination and a willingness to sacrifice for even just one part of our dream. If we can do that, Hashem will open the storehouses for us and allow us to access all of our aspirations in the coming year.

Bose claims that if you haven’t used a Bose Sounddock, you haven’t truly heard your ipod. Let’s hook up our sounddocks, amplify our dreams and give our Neshamos a chance to shine.

(JBlog)

Posted on 10/06 at 02:55 AM • Permalink
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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Cry of the Shofar

The Talmud tells us that the pattern of shofar blowing in each congregation evolved over time. The long, trumpet-like tekiah was used by all, but the teruah took on many different forms, varying with time and geographic location. Amazingly, after several generations the result was invariably corresponded to one of three basic sound patterns. Every congregation independently arrived at either the wailing, three-part shevarim, the pleading whimper of the teruah or a combination of the two.
The Talmud reports that upon witnessing this incredible phenomenon Rabbi Avahu instituted these three basic patterns worldwide. Rabbi Hai Gaon (939-1038) explains that this ruling was not the result of compromise (in a case of halachic disagreement). Rather, it was intended to promote unity and solidarity in the global Jewish community. In addition to our “personal” shofar sounds, we include those of the entire nation as well.
Our desire is for the feelings and yearnings of every Jew to be heard. A Jew is never left to cry alone.
The story is told of a young boy who people noticed standing alone in the synagogue on Rosh Hashana. Although no one recognized him, he was quite obviously troubled. They watched as the poor child tried unsuccessfully to articulate his problems. Becoming increasingly frustrated and upset, the boy began to cry. Finally, in desperation the boy removed a whistle from his pocket and began to blow it with all his might. The congregation stood still and watched as the boy blew with all his heart and soul, releasing pent up emotions and conveying his pain with more clarity than any words could have. When he was done, the boy turned, and with a shining face and a bounce in his step left the sanctuary, mission accomplished.
We have all experienced moments of extreme emotion, whether in joy, pain, relief, fright or sorrow. At these instances our feelings are so powerful that we can do virtually nothing other than scream. Similarly, the blowing of the shofar is not a logical expression of thought, but an emotional one. It has the potential to convey prayers that are too complex and deep for words or even song.
King David wrote (Psalms 89:16) “Fortunate is the nation who knows the shofar blasts.” We are fortunate when we are in touch with our own hearts and our personal shofar blasts. We are even more fortunate when we are united enough to anticipate the needs of another.
This Rosh HaShana as we listen to the shofar being blown, let us remember that these blasts are the vehicle with which we offer up our deepest emotions, those that words cannot verbalize. And let us pray that the sounds of the shofar carry not only our feelings but the suffering and yearning of Jew everywhere whose heartfelt “shofar sounds” may be different than our own.

This article first appeared in the Debut issue of NickNacks, a publication of the Norfolk Area Community Kollel.

Posted on 09/23 at 02:54 AM • Permalink
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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Elul Smackdown

If something is worthwhile then it is worthwhile to do it right.

I got a letter from a Yeshiva. They don’t feel that their dinner is worthwhile so they are just sending out nice letters asking everyone to match last years donation. The assumption is that nobody is really interested in Dinner anyway.

In contrast, two guys in Norfolk had a face-off this week to see who could sizzle the best steak. They prepared the marinade on Friday and spent the entire shabbos among friends, talking trash and feeling manly. They had a Native Texan taste the steaks and rate them expertly based on Taste, Texture and Presentation.

Through it all I heard a voice from my (now dinnerless) yeshiva yelling “ELUL!!” My heart told me that the carnivorous competition was good, but my memory told me that T-bones and Teshuva do not usually go together.

My fellow Norfolkians finally ended their personal drama in a draw (the southern type - not the dueling type), but I think that when it comes to Elul activities, they won against the foodless fundraiser without question.

Anything worth doing is worth doing right. If you don’t think that your dinner is worthwhile, make it worthwhile - or skip it. Why ask people to pretend that you had a dinner if it wasn’t worthwhile anyway? The focus of the Bar-B-Q may have been dead meat, but at least the goal was perfection.

I believe that Hashem wants to see our best steak. In ancient, holier, times men would spend their entire year raising cows, slaughtering them, preparing them and finally bringing the creme de la creme (so to speak) to the Bais Hamikdosh. They would eat in holiness, put a portion on the Mizbe’ach and donate cuts to the Kohanim. It was known as the Korban Shelamim. Bikurim (featured in Parshas Ki Savo) were not very different: the First Fruits would be proudly presented in fancy baskets and placed on Oxen with gold-plated and elaborate necklaces. Proudly and joyously, they would march up to Yerushalayim. Nobody sent a check or skipped the food and entertainment portion of the event. The inspirational and the mundane worked very well together to create a spiritual experience.

Of course there is a very big difference between a BBQ in the Backyard and Bikurim in the Beis Hamikdosh. The point is that we need to train ourselves to do things right. If something is worthwhile then it is worthwhile to do it right.

(Warning: This blog is getting popular. Watch for upcoming Kollel Cookoffs: BLT with BMG, Smackdown for Stamford, Brisket with the Soleveitchiks...)

Posted on 09/17 at 04:19 AM • Permalink
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Friday, September 12, 2008

Askanim-at-Risk

“Most bothersome to me is that this occurred during Chodesh Elul, when we all need to be doing some self-exploration – cheshbon hanefesh and teshuvah. We will need to face the upcoming yemai hadin, where we will each stand in our individual judgments. I will face Avinu Malkeinu with the position that “I tried to help Your children but they refused to let me.” What will the “holchei rochil” offer in their defense? “Hashem, we just shot down an “osek betzorchei tzibbur be’emunoh”. You shot the wrong person.

“...In reality, every frum Yid benefits from the things that askanim do. From intervening with governmental matters, legal issues, dealing with yeshivos, getting streets blocked for various events, and others too numerous to mention, we all derive much benefit from what they do. Nearly all, or perhaps absolutely all, function selflessly. Hatzoloh, Shomrim, and Chaverim are totally volunteer staffed. Since when do we carelessly and viciously attack an askan? ... I have been sensitized away from participating in askonus.

“I already contacted others whose projects are precious and worthy, and withdrew from taking any askonus role…

“To all the voices in the street that made this happen, my conscience is clear entering the days of selichos and yemai hadin. Are yours?” - Rabbi Dr. Bentzion Twersky, Brooklyn

I do not know Rabbi Twersky and I am not familiar with the issues involved, but I starting thinking about the potential difficulties of “Askanus”.

Jews are stiff-necked and stubborn people. We lasted this long because we are sure of the truth and willing to stand up for it. When someone else has a different take on that Truth we do not give in quickly. In many cases we never give in. We protest in many ways and it is often the askanim who suffer.

I draw my inspiration from the leadership of Yeshivas Mir in Yerushalayim. I may have some details wrong, but at one point the Yeshiva was led by Reb Beinush Finkel, Reb Chaim Shmuelevitz and Reb Nachum Percovitz. Reb Nachum gave one of the most popular shiurim in Eretz Yisroel, attracted students to Mir and generally influenced the learning Style in the Yeshiva. Reb Beinush ran the Yeshiva and worked hard to keep the lights on. He was a true Tazaddik Nistar. The biggest secret was that Reb Beinush was absolutely opposed to Reb Nachum’s style of learning and the way that he trained the Bochurim to learn. When Reb Chaim Shmuelevitz was no longer alive and Reb Nachum was no longer able to say a shiur it was suggested that Reb Nachum’s son-in-law (Reb Asher) take over his shiur. Reb Beinush was emphatic “I have had enough of these people!”.

Think about that: For most of his career Reb Beinush Finkel took responsibility for the yeshiva while disagreeing vehemently with it’s methods. Reb Beinush thought the others were dead wrong - but he supported them anyway.

We can be stubborn, but we need to remember that other people have the right to be stubborn too.

It is hard to be an Askan because people don’t recognize an askan’s right to disagree. Barring heresy, we need to respect the reality of others having opinions.

Be right and Be stubborn - but be realistic too. There are other people out there who have the ability to be just as Right and just as Stubborn. You will not always get your way (so don’t ruin it for everyone else). 

Disclaimer: Despite the use of several examples in the above lines, this is an examination of disagreements in general and not a reflection on the specific incidents.

Posted on 09/12 at 03:49 AM • Permalink
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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Phd Study on Preparing for Yom Tov (Please Participate)

My friend, David Richels is a doctoral candidate, at Old Dominion University, in Norfolk, VA. For his dissertation research, he will be conducting a study of expressive writing as a way to promote wellness in preparation for the holidays. He needs Orthodox Jewish wives to complete 3 short surveys and do some writing (writings will not be collected). Participation is done through the use of the internet. Participants will complete the surveys by anonymously logging into http://www.richels.com
The study will be available beginning September 8, 2008, at 12:00 AM. Your participation is needed once each calendar day for 3 consecutive days. The entire process will take no more than 30 minutes on day 1, 20 minutes on day 2, and 30 minutes on day 3. Fifteen minutes of each time frame is you writing. As you can see, the time you will actually spend on the internet completing the surveys is very limited.
The results of this study will be made available at the same internet address, January 2009.
All information will be anonymous and confidential!
The information you supply can help improve the understanding between the connections of religion, writing, and wellness. David is an Orthodox Jew, and he is vested through my work toward making the Jewish community a better place to live.

Posted on 09/10 at 04:50 AM • Permalink
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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Wrap the Grizzly Bear in a Towel!

The Parsha begins by discussing the rules of voluntary wars. The Torah is not against war and weapons but there are guidelines.

My former Monday night Chavrusa was once innocently carrying a sword down Granby Street when he was detained by the authorities. He had responsibly wrapped his sword in a towel but one of the obnoxiously nosy neighbors mistook the sword for a rifle and called the police. At the time, the police were frantically searching for the “beltway sniper”. For a tense fifteen minutes my chavrusa was compelled to explain that he was not secretly killing people and that he was late for his seder in Mishnayos. We had to catch up the next week.

I am totally for the right of citizens to bear arms. The fact that the police could stop a Jewish boy carrying two firearms (not to mention a sword) and let him drive away a few minutes later (to my house) says a lot about the country we live in.

At the same time, I will point out that he DID wrap the sword in a towel. Many responsible people carry guns, but you would never know. Even the military in this country do not walk around flaunting weapons off base. There is a certain reserve and sense of appropriateness when it comes to tools of destruction.

I can understand that in a country at war, like Israel, there is a need to carry weapons openly, but why does Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin have a DEAD Grizzly bear in her office?  I may vote for her, but I cannot begin to comprehend why it is fun to take a picture of yourself and your eight year old daughter with a bleeding moose. Did she wake up one morning and say “I must shoot a moose today and show my daughter how to tear it’s throat out”? She probably did.

(Admittedly, a vice president who shoots moose and bears would be an improvement over our current VP who shot his best friend, but that is besides the point). Americans are so proud of that heartwarming story of President Teddy Roosevelt who was too gentle to kill a bear in cold blood after his devoted aides tied it to a tree. It was so funny and special that it inspired the Teddy Bear. What kind of people are we if that is a sign of a gentle president? He was too gentle to shoot a tied up bear in cold blood. Wow.

We slaughter animals to eat and we carry guns for protection. I am seriously considering walking three blocks south to do kapporos on the front lawn of the PETA national headquarters. I have trouble, though, with a governor who spends her day at the office staring at the corpse of a one thousand pound animal who her father shot for fun.

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Posted on 09/07 at 09:26 PM • Permalink
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Monday, September 01, 2008

Elul

Is Elul the end of Last Year - or the Beginning of Next Year?
Posted on 09/01 at 06:50 AM • Permalink
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Is It OK To Cheat?

Last week I experienced a brief moment of intense disappointment. I bought the latest of Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s trademark encyclopedic works, Derech Chochma and found the following introduction: “My goal was to compile the various commentaries on the words of the Rambam … I made extensive use of the index of Rabbi Shabsi Frankel. I did not own all of the works cited, so I depended on citations in the index.” Rav Chaim Kanievsky wrote a sefer based on an index. Indeed, throughout the sefer he constantly quotes the index as the basis of his anthology.

Every year we are treated to countless study aids to save us from actually having to know something. Whereas twenty years ago a Rabbi (or lawyer for that matter) needed to have a very broad knowledge base, a researcher today only needs to know which index, anthology or software program to use.

Of course, to really know and comprehend the material you need to work hard. We are taught not to depend on crutches or training wheels in our learning. We put our noses to the grindstone because true knowledge comes only from hard work.

Ask anyone in the know to list the top ten Torah scholars in this generation and they are guaranteed to mention Rav Chaim Kanievsky. Rav Chaim has devoted his life to attaining real knowledge. He studies and reviews every major and minor work in our literature on a regular basis. Rav Chaim Kanievsky wrote encyclopedic works on many topics from the Laws of Grasshoppers and Agriculture to Gematria and Medrash. He is considered to be knowledgeable in the entire Torah.

Rav Chaim Kanievsky has always been my role model for doing things the right way. He does not take shortcuts; he just studies and studies and studies. When he finishes one book he begins the next, and when he finishes everything he starts again. He has been at it for over fifty years.

So, what happened to Rav Chaim Kanievsky?! Students around the world mock the index of Rav Shabsi Frankel as a crutch and a substitution for “real” learning, but Rav Chaim is teaching us that the role of a new study aid is not to let us learn less; it is to help us learn more.

In Vizhnitz (Monsey) there is a group of fifteen men with long white beards who study Daf Yomi together. They are learned men and have probably reviewed Shas three or four times in that Daf Yomi Shiur alone. I joined them last week and found that, without exception, they were all using “cheating gemaras”. Older Men who were able to quote obscure sources and argue about them intelligently chose to use the latest in study aids to make their learning experience even better.

We cannot get lazy, but we also cannot ignore opportunities to get better.

I still try not to use the “cheating Gemara” but when other guys in Daf Yomi insist on interjecting with “note 92 in the Artscroll” I welcome it as a perk, not a nuisance.

Posted on 09/01 at 06:23 AM • Permalink
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Friday, August 29, 2008

Mamishtown

I was just talking with Nick the Caretaker over at United Methodist Church on Colonial. Nick lives in Norfolk now, but he used to be the valet guy up in Woodbury Commons. Nick’s seen the Jewish communities of New York, Spring Valley, Kiryas Joel, and “all of them places”. He had one comment: “You guys are G-d’s chosen people”. He asked if it was hard to be chosen.





I didn’t respond to Nick, but I thought of my recent vacation in Lancaster County, PA. After shacharis at Congregation Degel Israel of Lancaster, I overheard an intense Halachic discussion. The issue was batteries and how the Amish people found a Heter (dispensation) to use them. A local was explaining that the really frum Amish (takeh) do not use batteries and that the permissibility of running water is dubious (“a big Shaila” ) as well. Somebody argued that batteries were never a problem and that the prohibition only began with the advent of centralized electric plants. Others invoked the concepts of ‘Shaas Hadchak’ and Gezeiros that are not practical to uphold. 





It seems that Amish Country, PA is a favorite destination for religious Jews. The people are dressed modestly and the Pennsylvania Dutch way of life is intriguing. The locals even speak a little Yiddish. (Not that Yeshivish/ Chassidish people were the only tourists. At a souvenier shop in Bird-in-hand, we met some Amish tourists who were visiting from Ohio).


We learned that the Amish have a very high retention rate, with most Amish children settling down (eventually) to an Amish way of life. Children are obligated to live Amishly, but once they reach adolescence they are allowed to make their own educated decision about their chosen religion. Many Teenagers go through a period of ‘Rumspringa’ (from the Yiddish ‘Arum-Shpringen’ – jumping around) before signing up with the Amish faith for life.


Recently, a Jewish educator cited the success of Amish Chinuch and wondered why we do not implement some of their policies in our own schools. The point was also made that many sheltered Jewish communities, particularly Chassidish ones, are already very similar to the Amish.


Well, The new school year is just starting and I suppose we could give it a try: All the students could wake up early to do their chores on the farm before riding their buggies (barefoot) to the one room schoolhouse where learning is prohibited after eight grade and quoting too much scripture is frowned upon. We could encourage adolescents to completely disregard our value system while “Shpringing Arum” for a couple years and then, after they rejoin the community, we could shun them and put them into Cheirem if they ever try wearing a button-down shirt or driving a mini-van or getting health insurance.


The truth is that most outsiders have no idea why the Amish do what they do, and I’m not sure the Amish know either. While they can be respected for finding a way of life that works for them, they are not role models for an idealized Jewish life. The fact is that almost all of the beliefs and practices that are unique to the Amish are based on the New Testament. The Amish are traditional and decent people, but their values do not even claim to be Torah values. What works for the Amish does not work for us.

Last week, I was invited to New Square for the Skvere Rebbe’s grandson’s Sheva Berachos. I watched the Chassidishe version of Arum-Shpringen as a thousand adolescent Chassidim jumped up and down on the bleachers singing tefillos with tears in their eyes and passion in their words. The Amish are against lively songs and they are against congregating for prayer. They are probably against bleachers too.

To quote Nick the Caretaker, “The Jews are the chosen people”. We have our own unique and special way of coming close to Hashem and it goes far beyond what we wear and where we live and whether we have televisions. In my humble opinion, an educator who compares the Amish to the Chasidim is misinformed and, frankly, a little bit too sheltered.

Posted on 08/29 at 04:33 AM • Permalink
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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Shabbos Nachamu Meets the Fifteenth of Av

Av is the month of the Father. For the first two weeks Hashem deals with us a strict father, punishing us when necessary. For the second half of the month G-d draws us closer. As the Mishna records, “there is no happier holiday than the fifteenth of Av”. (Kedushas Levi).

 


“Nachamu, Nachamu, Ami”. 


Stranded just outside the city limits at 7:56, they welcomed Shabbos as they trudged over the rivers and through the ‘hoods through a town they didn’t know. And at 11:00 this past Friday night they burst into my house in the person of five wet, sweaty, smelly, desperate and singing Yeshiva Boys. 


Their car was broken-down, their possessions abandoned and their muscles aching, but they were able see the comfort in it all as they danced and sang and davened in a way that would have made Shlomo Carlbach and Yirmiyahu Hanavi proud. After Maariv, we welcomed the malachim with Shalom Aleichem and enjoyed a sumptuous seudah punctuated with Divrei Torah and Niggunim. It was well into the morning hours when we took to the streets, armed with pillows and blankets to finalize the boys’ sleeping arrangements. 


The Jews have traveled a long journey through many tough neighborhoods and stormy nights. It’s not always easy, but we’ve learned to dance and sing anyway. 


Is Shabbos a burden? Not if you ask the old man with gold teeth by the tunnel into Norfolk. You see, his mother was Jewish.

Posted on 08/17 at 08:53 PM • Permalink
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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Parshas Va’eschanan: Skinning Cats

Moshe Rabeinu repeated his request to enter Eretz Yisroel in over 550 different ways.

Open-mindedness. We cannot just try once. If one style doesn’t work, another approach might. In dealing with others, we need to remember that just as no two faces are identical, no two minds are exactly the same either. 

My Shabbos table may be perfect for me, but somebody else might have different needs.

My friend Sid made a siyum this morning in honor of his father Allen Bridge, whose Yahrzheit is today. Here is a story Sid wrote about his father on his blog (norfolk-stories.livejournal.com):

The Uncomfortable Guest
By Sid Bridge

It was Friday night at B’nai Israel Congregation. My mother was busy back at our Shabbos apartment preparing dinner for our family, a friend, and a guest of his. The guest arrived at the synagogue and quickly realized no one had told him how to dress. He was wearing a T-shirt and shorts.  The poor guy spent the whole service sweating bullets because everyone around him was wearing suits and ties. 

My father, of course, always dressed a cut above everyone at the Synagogue. He would go out of his way to make sure his cravat was perfectly tucked into his pocket, his tie was just right, and his shirt (usually some color other than white) worked in concert with his entire ensemble. His sense of style went beyond synagogue and even beyond mafioso. 

Our guest kept talking about how uncomfortable he was as he walked with my father and I back to the apartment. We all felt a little bad for him, to say the least. 

As usual, a beautifully set Shabbos table was waiting for us at the apartment, all ready for my father to sit down and make Kiddush. Before he could sit, he excused himself to the bedroom and assured us he’d be right back.

In a move that was no doubt painful for my father, he emerged in a casual shirt and shorts, sat down at the table, and said, "I’m ready to make Kiddush."

From that moment on, our guest’s mood changed. He immediately got comfortable and enjoyed a wonderful meal with us.

Posted on 08/14 at 02:02 PM • Permalink
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Friday, August 08, 2008

Parshas Devarim: Moshe’s Famous Last Words

Moshe’s goal in rebuking the Jewish people was to get them to think. That was enough.

The Jewish people had traveled for forty years in the Desert. They were standing in Arvos Moav, on the banks of the Yarden (present day Jordan) ready to enter the land of Eretz Yisroel. Moshe, who would not be coming with them, rose to speak to the Jewish people for the last time before his death.

Although he would go on to review virtually the entire Torah with the Jewish people, Moshe chose to begin with some words of rebuke. His style of rebuke is quite instructive. Moshe did not tell the Jewish people anything that they did not already know. Rather than teach the Jewish people new philosophical concepts or explain the enormity of their actions, Moshe chose to simply hint to some of the worst sins committed by the Jews in their travels. He began with a list of place names: The desert, the Aravah, the Yam Suf, Paran, Chatzeiros…

These were the locations where the Jewish people had rebelled ungratefully toward Hashem, threatened to return to Egypt, participated in the rebellion of Korach, and listened to the words of the spies. Moshe hinted to these sins and the sin of the golden calf, but he did not elaborate – he left it to the people to draw their own conclusions.

R’ Aharon Kotler and others explain that that this is the essence of Mussar. Mussar (often translated as rebuke), is not about more information and more guilt; Mussar is about examining our actions.
Before we act we need to think: Why am I doing this? Should I be doing this? Is this action rooted in anger, revenge, arrogance, despair, or in the desire to do the will of Hashem?  We need to train ourselves to think before we act and before we speak. And the only chance we have of fixing our mistakes is if we can train ourselves to think after we act. True Mussar is the examination of our own actions.

Moshe’s only goal in rebuking the Jewish people was to get them to rethink and reexamine their actions. That was enough.

The Medrash points out that these words of Moshe are introduced with the words “אלו הדברים” the same words that precede the Ten Commandments. This is to show that self-improvement and Mussar are on the same level as the Ten Commandments.

Shlomo Hamelech writes in Mishlei (4:13): “החזק במוסר אל תרף נצרה כי היא חייך” - “Grab Mussar and do not let go. Guard it – for it is your life”.
The Vilna Gaon writes, “It is our life, because the purpose of our existence is to “break that which we have not yet broken”. We must be on the constant lookout for character flaws that we have not yet conquered. A person must constantly improve himself because if he does not למה לו חיים?  – What is the purpose of living?”

Reb Aharon concludes: We say in Maariv every night “כי הם חיינו” - that the Torah and Mitzvos are our life and yet Shlomo Hamelech insists that it - Mussar - is our life. If Torah on its own were good enough, we could have studied it without coming into this world. In fact we do study the entire Torah before entering this world. Our purpose then, in entering this world is to complete our Torah with Mussar – the constant evaluation and re- evaluation of our real life actions.

Posted on 08/08 at 06:20 PM • Permalink
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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