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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Bongo Without a Cause

What if one man could create an atmosphere of peace simply by setting up forty Bongo Drums on a grassy patch outside the Old City of Jerusalem?

About ten years ago, somebody tried, and he invited me to join him. He patiently explained to me that he did not represent any movement, religion or philosophy. He was not trying to pray, meditate or open up gates in heaven. He simply wanted to Bongo with the people.

At the time, I thought it was crazy to make peace without a common goal. Looking back, the Bongo People may have been right.

When our forefathers stood at the Yam Suf they did not have a common goal. Pharaoh had told his people that the Jews were helpless in the desert, and we weren’t so sure that we didn’t agree. There was water blocking our path forward, but we weren’t so sure we wanted to go forward anyway. We weren’t ready for war, and we were homesick for Egypt. The Jewish people saw the shock, the awe, and the might of G-d, but it seems that we weren’t sure why it was all happening.  Yet, we were united.

In Hebrew, the word for group is Chabura. It comes from the word Chaver, which means friend, and Chibur, which means connection. A Chabura is a beautiful thing.

There is also a sinister meaning to the word Chabura. The Torah describes a wound or a bruise as a Chabura. The linguists explain that this is because the blood gathers together below the skin in response to an injury. On some level, this too is a beautiful concept, but in the final analysis it remains a Chaburah – a wound.

I heard from Rabbi Michel Twersky that when we form alliances and unions with each other we are forming a chabura. If the entire purpose of that Chabura is as a reaction to an outside force, then that unity is tainted. The unity is not the result of an intrinsic spiritual or emotional connection; it is the result of an outside force. It is a wound.

When the Jewish people gathered together at the Yam Suf, it was not as a response to the Egyptian enemy – they weren’t sure he was an enemy. It was not even with a goal of reaching the land of Israel – they weren’t ready for that. It was just simply gathering together as “one nation under G-d” aiming to grow and become greater. The Egyptians were also unified as they chased the Jews, but Rashi describes it “With one heart and as one man” – they were of one heart and therefore they were like one Man. They joined together to take revenge. The Jewish people were the opposite: “As one man and with one heart” – we began with no cause but unity and the desire to grow. Later we became united as one heart, and only then did we receive the Torah.

Unity doesn’t begin with a Cause.

Unity begins with Unity.

Drum Roll.

Posted on 02/03 at 06:29 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