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Friday, November 21, 2008

Do You Have Time for Eliezer’s Story?

Efron the Chitti liked to talk about how great he was, but the Torah did not even spell out his entire name. Eliezer considered himself a simple servant and the Torah quotes his narrative at length.

(Eliezer’s narrative is described as “Siach” and is considered more worthy of space in the Torah than some Torah laws. Siach can also refer to shrubbery and denotes lowliness and humility. The numerical value of Siach is 318, the Talmud tells us that this trait gave Eliezer the strength of 318 men).

The following story was originally written for the Norfolk Stories Blog:

Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky, one of the Gedolim of our generation, has a special relationship with the Norfolk community. He has been to Norfolk and has spoken to a standing room only crowd at Congregation Bnai Israel. He visited the school and spoke to each one of the children, and he has been consulted on many communal matters.

In addition, Rab Shmuel is the personal mentor of many members of the community who call him with their most personal and complicated issues.

Reb Shmuel has this same relationship with many communities around the world. He is frequently consulted by many thousands of alumni and serves on the advisory boards of tens of organizations. He runs a large Yeshiva where he gives a regular shiur and is responsible for a large part of the financial burden.

Keeping his busy schedule in mind, I was hesitant about calling Reb Shmuel, who is in his eighties, and asking him to meet with the Toras Chaim eighth graders on their class trip. When I called, Rav Shmuel told me that he would love to spend some time with the boys. I should just let him know when it would work with OUR schedule. We set a time and organized our itinerary accordingly.

(Parenthetically, as we drove the boys to the Philadelphia Yeshiva after a long day of looking at cracked bells and ancient shuls, we witnessed an unforgettable change in Rabbi Mostofsky: Rabbi Mostofsky prepared for Rav Shmuel like most people would prepare for Yom Kippur. His mood become serious, he changed into his best clothes, and he took out his Gemara and learned up to the minute that we saw Reb Shmuel. Rabbi Mostofsky trembled with excitement as we shook hands with the Rosh Yeshiva. Rabbi Mostofsky’s honor for Talmidei Chachamim left an indelible impression on the boys and myself.)

When the time came, Reb Shmuel welcomed us into his office and proceeded to test the boys and speak with them for forty-five minutes.
His desk was clear besides for the Sefer he was learning with us.
The phone did not ring once and nobody knocked on the door.
Reb Shmuel hung onto every word uttered by the three thirteen year old boys who had come to see him.
One would think that he had nothing else to do.
For almost an hour we were the only people in the world.

We live in an age where everyone wants to look busy. We feel inadequate if we have too much time. Reb Shmuel Kamenetzky probably had less time on his hands and more issues on his mind than any of us ever will. He probably had things to do and people to call.

But really important people don’t need to look busy. They have time to make other people feel really important too.


Posted on 11/21 at 05:07 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