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Sunday, December 21, 2008

al-Zaadi Made Us Think

al-Zaadi pushed his luck;
al-Zaadi made Bush duck;
al-Zaadi tried to teach Bush wrong from right.
Two shoes at the Bush flew from his hand,
But it may not have been worth the slight.
(with apologies to Moshe Yess & Megama)

Palestinian Leaders have invited Iraqi journalist al-zaadi to marry their daughters. According to Muslim law he could actually marry all of them. What the news does not report is that al-Zaadi will have a hard time finding a shidduch in Iraq. It seems that while upholding one Muslim tradition (of expressing displeasure with shoes) he violated a much more basic and important Muslim tradition (of treating guests with respect). Even as they agree with his politics, Muslim poskim are clearly unsatisfied with al-zaadi as a representative of Islam.

Our Zaidie’s don’t throw shoes, but they were often the sole representatives of Judaism and pursuits of the soul to their children and grandchildren.

Back then, America was a new country where there were no unions. Blue Laws were strictly enforced and Shemiras Shabbos was a challenge. Many Orthodox congregations consisted of members who identified with Orthodoxy, but snuck away to work after attending shacharis on Shabbos morning. Rabbis like my uncle, R’ Aaron Paperman ztl, spent their Shabbos afternoons keeping frum children occupied and unaware that their parents had gone downtown to open their stores.

In the struggle to maintain a sense of decorum in Orthodox Synagogues many rabbis drew upon a relatively unknown section of Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 53): “Who is Eligible to lead the Congregation in Tefillah?”

Based on a Gemara in Taanis, The Shulchan Aruch writes that the Sheliach Tzibur must be a holy Jew, clean of any Aveiros. The ensuing paragraphs spell out the details of this oft-ignored Halacha: The Chazzan should be twenty, he must have a beard, he should have a good voice and he should study Tanach regularly.

The Mishna Berurah holds (with minor concessions in SK 18 & 22) that these Halachos apply even in modern times where the Chazzan is not permanent and people are knowledgeable enough to daven on their own. The Aruch Hashulchan is more lenient. Everyone agrees that it is preferable for a Chazzan to be Shomer Shabbos.

Small town American rabbis took Orach Chaim fifty-three as seriously as they could. In tens of cities (including Norfolk, Newport News and St. Louis) Rabbis ruled that anyone serving as chazzan on Shabbos or Yom Tov must be Shomer Shabbos .

Heads rolled. People had Yahrzheit and wanted to daven, but the Rabbanim held strong in their policy. Some put their jobs on the line.

This policy, while based in Shulchan Aruch, was unprecedented. It was tailor-made by local rabbis for their individual communities. Yet, as the following story illustrates, the Shomer Shabbos rule raised small-town congregants to levels of consciousness simply not found among their big city counterparts.

The following is by Sid Bridge at the Norfolk Stories blog:

My father really enjoyed observing Shabbos thanks to his newly acquired Shabbos apartment. The gabbai of the Shull called upon him regularly to lead services, and he happily obliged now that he met the Shull’s requirements for Davening at the Omud.

However, one Shabbos the Gabbai asked him, and he politely declined. This seemed a little odd to me, so I asked my father after Shull was over why he didn’t want to Daven.

“I accidentally turned on the light switch this morning. It just didn’t feel right to Daven for everyone. I felt bad.”

My father had put so much energy into becoming Shomer Shabbos, and the prize at the end of it all for him was the important duty of leading davening at B’nai Israel, a very holy congregation. After all that went into getting that Shabbos apartment, he didn’t want to mess up a single Shabbos, and when he did, he didn’t feel as though he was “Shomer Shabbos” anymore.

What a powerful message. I wished to myself that I could be so sensitive about keeping Shabbos and understanding the gravity of Davening at the Omud.  Whoever stands at the front of the Shull must know that there are individuals standing behind him, all righteous in their own areas, in need of inspiration to get the most out of prayer. At that moment, I could think of no one better to represent them than my father.

May we all be so careful about Shabbos and Davening.

Jews don’t throw shoes much, but European Zaidie’s of the last century taught us how careful we need to be as representatives of Judaism to people around us.

Have you ever refused to Daven for the Amud because you spoke too much Lashon Hora?

(Thank You for you votes of confidence)
Audio Blog (Beta)

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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