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Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Rose by another Name

Throughout the Song of Songs, King Solomon compares the Jewish people to a rose. We are the Chavatzeles of the Sharon and the Shoshanah of the Valleys. A Chavatzeles is an underdeveloped bulb while a Shoshana is a fully developed rose, vibrant in all of its glory.

According to the American Rose Society, the rose market as we know it underwent a significant change in 1867. The French developed a rose which they named “La France” and from that time on genetically altered roses became very popular. The roses that are mass produced and sold in grocery stores are generally modern roses.

The main difference between a modern rose and an Old Garden Rose (which you can still get) is that the modern roses are weak and highly dependent on Sunlight. They also die quickly. Old World Roses need far less sunlight. As a result they have a richer color and they fade far slower than modern roses. Old World Roses are tough.

The Vilna Gaon explains that the Jewish people are Old World Roses. We thrive in the shade. Our natural colors emerge and our scent is more pungent than that of any other rose. We are the Shoshana of the Valleys.

When we were slaves in Egypt we were so choked and burdened and malnourished that even we couldn’t sprout at all.

Even before we were fully freed, we celebrated the first Pesach in the Egyptian city of Ramses. We didn’t need to go to Eretz Yisroel or even to leave Egypt. All we needed was a little bit of sunlight and we were able to shine right there in the darkness of Egypt.

After we left Egypt we often found ourselves over exposed to the elements. Too much sunlight for an Old World Rose. Our unique qualities began to fade and we weren’t quite as fragrant.

In Shir Hashirim we remind Hashem that we are the most beautiful, strong, vibrant roses that exist. We may look awful, faded and windblown, but our DNA has not changed.

Just as we recovered quickly from the darkness of Egypt and immediately sprouted into a beautiful rose, we remind Hashem that we will do the same if he will take us now, in our faded glory and replant us in our perfect valley.

The Beis Halevi points out that so many habits need to be broken over time. Nations take centuries to change. Somehow, the Jewish people have historically been able to attain immediate holiness. This is because holiness has been a part of us all along.

So many of us aren’t perfect. Deep inside we want to improve but we are so entrenched in our surroundings, our habits and our relationships that we can’t just change.

Sometimes we are starved for sunlight; sometimes we have too much. Still, our basic DNA will never change. Put us in the perfect environment and we will immediately blossom into the beautiful Shoshana that we have always been.

Posted on 04/19 at 12:36 AM • 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