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Monday, July 22, 2013

Good Faith

Several months ago, I received an email from a Navy Officer asking me not to sell his Chometz. He could have sold it to me, but he felt like the buyer would have no access. The Chametz was in an undisclosed and secure location in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, or perhaps the Pacific, the Baltic, the Mediterranean, or the gulf. He didn’t want to burn his Chametz because there was no Walmart at sea. So he took the time to learn how to sell the Chametz himself. He explained the procedure to somebody on the boat and went into Pesach feeling confident.

That is Yiras Shamayim - Fear of heaven. It is doing Mitzvos because we believe in them and because it is the will of Hashem. Nobody in the entire world cared what that sailor did with his chametz, but he wanted to do what was right by Hashem.

The Gemara in Shabbos tells us that the sages considered leaving the book of Koheles out of the Tanach. They left it in because of the final verse.

“Sof Davar”, King Solomon writes, “At the end of the day, after everything has been said and done: Fear Hashem and do His mitzvos – for that is the entire person”.

We live in a world where people struggle with labels and expectations and very difficult stories in the news. The truth is very simple. It’s not about how we dress or what we call ourselves or where we live. We need to fear Hashem and do –or at least try to do – His mitzvos.

If a group of bums beats someone up because the way that he or she is dressed – they are not fearing Hashem and doing His mitzvos; if hundreds of people sit by the Kosel all night on Tisha B’av and cry – those people are fearing Hashem and doing His mitzvos.

The Talmud tells us that when we come to Heaven we will be asked six questions: Were we honest? Did we set aside times to study Torah? Did we do our best to raise children? Did we await Mashiach? Did we engage in wisdom? Did we seek to understand things deeply?

Even if we answer ‘yes’ to every one of those questions, we will be asked if we feared Heaven. If the answer is no, then everyone of t the answer is no, then every one of the previous yes’s is almost meaningless.

This is what will matter at the end of days: Did we fear Hashem? Did we do His mitzvos?

Several months back, a friend of mine had made Aliyah and informed me that anything that I do here in America was futile. I’m just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I shared this sentiment with the congregation. Eeryone gave a little chuckle and a sigh but one naval chaplain was furious.

Embracing the nautical metaphor, the chaplain asked what he would do if he was on the Titanic and saw people drowning. Would he leave as quickly as possible? Or would he stay behinds and try to help? How is a rescue mission futile?

The Lelover Rebbe notes that after Moshiach comes and we all gather in the Land of Israel, we bring a gift to Moshiach. What kind of gift could Moshiach possibly want?

The Lelover explains that at the end of days all Jews will come running to the Land of Israel. Some will take longer than others but eventually even the most assimilated and uninspired Jews will come. We will search and search until we find the one Jew who refuses to come. He won’t be able to avoid the miracles and the celebration, but he will stay in Wichita, Kansas eating potato chips and watching reruns.

We will go down to Kansas, pick that Jew up, put him onto an airplane and bring him to the land of Israel. We will make make sure that he too takes part in the unfolding of history. That cold, unspiritual, and uninvolved Jew is the greatest gift that we can bring with us when Moshiach comes.

Fear G-d and do Mitzvos, but remember that Hashem treasures every single Jew.

Posted on 07/22 at 11:47 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