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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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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