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Thursday, December 04, 2014


Yaakov had a difficult life. Rashi tells us that at time that he was sending peace offering to Eisav he was “Sharuy B’kaas”. He was angry. Yaacov had been harassed by his brother, left home, lost everything and been cheated by Lavan in the switching of Rachel and Leah and with the spotted and dotted and striped sheep. He had encountered Eisav and Eisav’s angel, had his daughter kidnapped in Shechem and watched his sons Shimon and Levi get involved in a questionable tactic of promising peace and then killing an entire city.

In the midst of all this Yaakov had a funeral. There were many great people in the Torah but we do not hear about everyone’s funeral. This funeral was a seemingly insignificant character, Devorah the nurse of Rivka yet we are told that Yaacov wept copiously. In fact the place where she is buried is called Alon Bachus. Who was this Devorah and why was she - Rivkah’s nurse with Yaacov to begin with?

The first thing we need to remember is that Yaacov was leaving Lavan’s home in Charan and Rivkah was Lavan’s sister and a native of Charan. Presumably, her nursemaids were natives of Charan as well. Rashi explains that Devorah was with Yaacov because Rivka had promised to send for him when it was time to return home. Devorah was the messenger.

Why did Rivkah choose Devorah, of all people, to fetch Yaacov? It seems from the commentaries that this Devorah is the same wet nurse that was at Rivka’s engagement party many years earlier.  Rivka was blessed that she would be the mother of many multitudes. At the time, Devorah might have wondered if that would ever come true, but she stuck with Rivkah and raised her and helped her become who she was. The Targum says that Devorah was Rivka’s “padagogia”, she was her teacher. She showed Rivkah how to become great and she witnessed Rivkah as she grew.

Now Rivkah’s son Yaakov was at a difficult juncture in life. The UN was mad at him for the incident at Shechem. Lavan had only let them go by the skin of their teeth. Eisav was ready to attack at any moment. And more than any physical danger, Yaacov said that he didn’t know if he was spiritually able to stand all of it. “Maybe I became too small”, he said. “Perhaps I’m not great enough for all this”.

The only person who could answer this question honestly and bring Yaacov back home was Devorah. Devorah had been present when Rivkah was given her mandate. She had watched her grow and guided her through it. Devora, and only Devorah, could say to Yaccov “come home – this will work”.

We cannot judge ourselves and decide that we can’t go further and become greater. We need to find people outside of ourselves who are able to recognize the growth that we can’t see and encourage us. Better yet, we need someone to say, I’ve seen people like you – they turn out ok. This is the role of Devorah. It is why Rivkah sent her, and why
Yaacov cried so much when he buried her.

(Based in part on “Teachings” by Rabbi Asher Brander)

Posted on 12/04 at 10:30 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