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Monday, November 24, 2014

Becoming Yaacov

Toward the end of the parsha, Yaacov and his family finally escaped Lavan and started to make their way back home. Lavan ran after them. He said that he wanted to kiss his daughter’s goodbye but it soon emerged that his real concern was his Terafim, which Rachel had stolen.

Terafim are statuettes that were used for some form of witchcraft. Some say that they would talk to Lavan and tell him things, but the Abarbanel writes they would just help him organize his thoughts. He would focus on them and he would feel like they were talking to him because he would start to think more clearly.

Whether these Trafim were some form of witchcraft or mind game is irrelevant. The point is that Lavan was dependent upon them. He couldn’t think without them, he couldn’t live without them.

Yaacov was quite the opposite; he was attacked by Elifaz, son of Eisav shortly after he left home and lost all of his belongings. Still, he kept on going. He lay down on a mountaintop alone with nothing but stones to protect him, yet we don’t find that he became afraid until he realized that he had slept in a holy place. Yaacov understood that his greatest asset was his personal development.

Yaacov was sixty three at the time of the Brachos. Why didn’t he get married? His father got married at forty and that was considered late! Reb Aharon tells us that he wasn’t ready. He understood that he was expected to raise the twelve tribes and he wanted to make sure that he was prepared. He even stopped at the Yeshiva of Sheim and Ever to study for fourteen years. He wanted to be ready. The Seforno explains that this was Yaacov’ greatest wish when he woke up “Veshavti B’shalom el Beis Avi”. He wanted to return home complete and developed. He wanted to grow from his experiences. He arrived at Lavan’s house at seventy-seven years of age. When Lavan told him to wait seven years, that was ok because he understood that Hahsem was giving him more time to prepare. He went through the challenges of a Jew who needs to be honest in business and loyal to Hashem while surrounded by people who are not.

Throughout the next Parshiyos we find that Yaacov was constantly looking at his own development. He didn’t depend on Lavan for honesty or for Eisav to be nice. He just worked on himself for years and years and years.

That is how he was able to raise the twelve tribes.

There are two ways to grow. You can grow by becoming dependant on things around you or you can grow from within. Yaacov developed himself from within. That was how he survived the tough life that he was dealt and that was how he developed the strength to raise the twelve tribes.

Posted on 11/24 at 09:45 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