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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Good Intentions

It is interesting to note that Reuvein is given credit by the Torah for saving Yosef. He really didn’t do much. He got Yosef thrown into a pit so that he could come back and save him but when he came back to save him Yosef, Yosef had been sold. According to the Gemara that the pit had snakes and scorpions Reuvein’s heroics are even less understandable.

I think the significance of Reuvein’s role may lie in a comment that Yosef made to his brothers. After Yaacov died, they were petrified that he would take revenge, but Yosef pointed out that everything had actually worked out pretty well for him.

“You thought to do something bad to me but Hashem was thinking good”.

The entire sin of the brothers was in thought. G-d’s plan is G-d’s plan and in the end everything worked out well, but the thoughts of hatred that the brothers felt whenever they saw him were inexcusable. Only Reuvein rose above those thoughts of hatred and tried to save Yosef.

This is such an important lesson for us. We all try to do things. Some work and some don’t. That’s forgivable.  It is unforgivable to think bad thoughts. We need to be the Reuvein who’s first thought is “How can I help this person? How can I rescue this person? How can I make this situation better?”

So much is out of our hands but there is no excuse for hateful thoughts.

I was once at the deathbed of a very elderly person. As is the case in many families, this person did not get along with one of his brothers. That brother called while I was in the room and asked to talk to the dying individual. I was on the edge of my seat. What was there to say to a person who you had fought for decades? I watched with awe as the dying man took the phone and said passionately and simply: “Yankel, I wish only the best for you and you and your family”. And it was true.

We fight, we bicker, we don’t talk. Sometimes we don’t even stay in touch, but deep down where it counts we need to wish only the best for one another. The greatest complaint that Yosef had against the brothers was that in their thoughts they intended to harm him. Reuvein thoughts were about saving Yosef and he gets all the credit.

As we enter the book of Shemos we move from the story of a family to the story a nation. In order to survive as a nation we need to be thinking about others. Moshe went out to see the welfare of his brothers. The midwives risked their lives to save the babies. And G-d said “I also heard the cries of the Jewish people”. When we listened to the cries of our brothers and sisters G-d began to listen to them as well.

We become a nation by thinking only the best about one another.

(Sources: Kaliver Rebbe Shlit”a of Jerusalem and Chasam Sofer. Some details in story have been altered)

Posted on 12/19 at 05:23 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