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Friday, July 30, 2010

Baring Our Soles

There was an older man in my shul growing up. Once, when I was about fourteen, I was in a different city and ran into a cousin of this particular man. “I assume”, the cousin told me “that nothing will come of him”. I answered what I answered by the statement jarred me and stayed in my mind until today.

By what definition does something come of someone? The man in question was frum despite peer pressure and the holocaust, he made the Minyan three times a day, he lained, and he served as gabbai and president. He was a short cute old man. What were they waiting for? Did he need to cure the common cold or write volumes of response to become ‘something’?!

In parshas Eikev, the Torah reminds us to pay careful attention to the mitzvos that tend to be trampled with our Eikev - our heel. We tend to triage mitzvos and decide that certain ones are not important. We concentrate on the “Big Mitzvos” but the truth is that every single little mitzva is important. Every Mitzva plays a role in the development of our souls.

Before Moshe could speak with Hashem he was told to take off his shoes. In fact, the very first thing Hashem told Moshe to do was to take off his shoes. Shoes protect us from the small pebbles and toys that we trample but Hashem wanted Moshe to be sensitive. He was not allowed to trample on anything without noticing.

The Letters of the word Na’al (shoe) stand for Neshicha, Akitza, and Lechisha - biting, stinging and hissing. The Mishna in Pirkei Avos tells us that we need to beware of a Torah scholar because he can bite like a wolf, sting like a scorpion, and hiss like a snake. A Torah scholar can be expected to defend the Torah. We say that it is the Torah in him that is getting upset. Even so, Hashem told Moshe that he must remove his Na’al and be compassionate and sensitive.

We learn from this parsha that we need to be sensitive to everything and everybody there is no Mitzva and no person that we can just trample. We can no rely on our calluses.

The word Eikev also means that we need to investigate and get to the bottom of every Mitzva. Each Mitzva has its own special meaning and corresponds to a different part of our souls. The Zohar writes that there is a mitzvah corresponding to every one of our limbs and muscles. If we skip a Mitzvah or gloss over it we are missing an important piece of our overall structure.

Ruchama Shain tells the story of an assimilated Jew. He became engaged to a Catholic woman who insisted that he convert. He didn’t care. As he was taking off his shoes for the baptism he realized that he was taking them off as a Jew: first the left and then the right. It was possibly the only Mitzva that his mother had taught him. The man immediately tied his shoes, walked out of the church, and went to see a Rabbi. His mind and body were spiritually undeveloped but his feet were strong.

They say that there was once a grandson of the Ziditchoiver Rebbe who was becoming lax in his Yiddishkeit and decided to leave Yeshiva. His Rosh Yeshiva bid him farewell but made him to promise to keep just one family custom: In Ziditchoiv, the rebbes valued Shabbos so highly that they do not say tachanun on Friday. Accordingly, The boy promised not to say Tachanun on Friday. When the the next Friday the young man set his alarm clock to go off early. He needed to Daven if he was going to skip tachanun. As he stood and davened with his tefillin on, he began to think of the beauty of Shabbos and the impact that it must have made on his holy forbears. Before long he was back in yeshiva.

We often see people whose entire Judaism is based on one Mitzvah. We never know how any one Mitzva or any one person will affect us. We need to do every Mitzva properly and treat every person with respect.

L’iluy Nishmas Yechiel ben Ben Tzion a"h

Posted on 07/30 at 09:16 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