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Friday, July 10, 2015


The daughters of Tzelafched were upset because their father had died and there was nobody to inherit his land. They approached “Moshe, Elazar, and the heads of the tribes with their query” (27:1-2). This seems odd. Once they approached Moshe, why would they approach Elazar? Once they approached Elazar (the Kohen Gadol), why would they approach the heads of the tribes? In Bava Basra 119b, there are two approaches. Rav Yoshiyah says that the verse is written out of order. The women approached the lower judges first and then worked their way up, as per Yisro’s system. When the Torah then lists the people asked they are listed in order of importance. Abba Chanan disagrees.

According to Abba Chanan the Posuk is to be taken literally. The daughters actually did approach Moshe, Elazar and all of the heads of the tribes simultaneously.

The Abarbanel tells the story in way that both approaches are true. The daughters began their quest for fairness and an inheritance by going straight to the top. Moshe declined to answer them. He explained that he had put a court system into place. You don’t go straight to the top. You need to start with the lower judges. The daughters went to the lower judges but they deferred the case up to Moshe. This was Moshe’s business, they said. Finally, the daughters took matters into their own hands. They waited until all of the courts were assembled and approached everyone at exactly the same time. Somebody had to answer their question.

Moshe was overcome with mercy for these young ladies. He sidestepped the elaborate system that he had set up and dealt with the issue himself. He also didn’t satisfy himself with what he had already been told on Har Sinai. He too went straight to the top and consulted with G-d.

We need to imagine that there were many questions in the desert. Here, in one of the only instances in history, Hashem gave a ruling as a direct response to an individual’s question.

Systems are good, but sometimes we need to be overcome with mercy. We need to break all of the boundaries and go with whatever it takes.

Anybody who wants to truly appreciate our military should watch a homecoming. Often, the first one hundred sailors of the ship are sailors who have not yet met their newborn children. Can you imagine the feelings in these men’s hearts? Yet they stand like everyone else at perfect attention and in formation until they are ordered to disembark. If you look closely you can see that every one of those sailors is standing stoically, but with tears pouring out of his eyes.

This is how we need to be. We need to keep the rules and defend the system. We also need to be overcome with emotion.

Posted on 07/10 at 03:36 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