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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Elul Smackdown

If something is worthwhile then it is worthwhile to do it right.

I got a letter from a Yeshiva. They don’t feel that their dinner is worthwhile so they are just sending out nice letters asking everyone to match last years donation. The assumption is that nobody is really interested in Dinner anyway.

In contrast, two guys in Norfolk had a face-off this week to see who could sizzle the best steak. They prepared the marinade on Friday and spent the entire shabbos among friends, talking trash and feeling manly. They had a Native Texan taste the steaks and rate them expertly based on Taste, Texture and Presentation.

Through it all I heard a voice from my (now dinnerless) yeshiva yelling “ELUL!!” My heart told me that the carnivorous competition was good, but my memory told me that T-bones and Teshuva do not usually go together.

My fellow Norfolkians finally ended their personal drama in a draw (the southern type - not the dueling type), but I think that when it comes to Elul activities, they won against the foodless fundraiser without question.

Anything worth doing is worth doing right. If you don’t think that your dinner is worthwhile, make it worthwhile - or skip it. Why ask people to pretend that you had a dinner if it wasn’t worthwhile anyway? The focus of the Bar-B-Q may have been dead meat, but at least the goal was perfection.

I believe that Hashem wants to see our best steak. In ancient, holier, times men would spend their entire year raising cows, slaughtering them, preparing them and finally bringing the creme de la creme (so to speak) to the Bais Hamikdosh. They would eat in holiness, put a portion on the Mizbe’ach and donate cuts to the Kohanim. It was known as the Korban Shelamim. Bikurim (featured in Parshas Ki Savo) were not very different: the First Fruits would be proudly presented in fancy baskets and placed on Oxen with gold-plated and elaborate necklaces. Proudly and joyously, they would march up to Yerushalayim. Nobody sent a check or skipped the food and entertainment portion of the event. The inspirational and the mundane worked very well together to create a spiritual experience.

Of course there is a very big difference between a BBQ in the Backyard and Bikurim in the Beis Hamikdosh. The point is that we need to train ourselves to do things right. If something is worthwhile then it is worthwhile to do it right.

(Warning: This blog is getting popular. Watch for upcoming Kollel Cookoffs: BLT with BMG, Smackdown for Stamford, Brisket with the Soleveitchiks...)

Posted on 09/17 at 05:19 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