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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Har Sinai

The Torah is not just a compendium of rules. It is a lifestyle. It is a value system. It our own personal instruction book and owner’s manual, written by G-d himself. It was the ultimate wake up call to the Jewish soul. A wake up call that we have remembered and forgotten dozens of times through the centuries.

One of the greatest spiritual awakenings in recent times was the Six Day War in 1967.

Today, almost any Jew who visits Israel makes time to go to the Kosel but this was virtually impossible before the Six Day War. There are few experiences that can top going to the Kosel after all those years of waiting and all of the miracles of that war.

Leading up to and during the war, people were scared. Everyone was trying to get on Hashem’s good side. The Lubavitcher Rebbe suggested, in his wisdom, that people put on tefillin as a sign of our relationship with Hashem and that he would defend us against the nations that surrounded us. When the Israeli paratroopers captured the Kosel some actually had their Tefillin with them and put them on. As soon as the Kosel was open to the public Chabad was there with their Tefillin booth.

During that time Ariel Sharon came to the Kosel with a group of foreign soldiers. At the time he was a military commander and a war hero. He was also very secular but when he was asked to put on tefillin he did so after just a moment’s hesitation. The picture was in the next day’s Maariv. When people saw that this secular hero was putting on tefillin at the kosel, it became the thing to do. In the weeks after the end of the war ninety percent of the Jews in Israel were at the Kosel and thousands put on tefillin. That was a big part of making sure that the Kosel became a religious experience and not just a historic, patriotic, or archeological pilgrimage.

There is a merit in that act of putting on tefillin that never goes away. More importantly, there were those holy sparks inside every one of the Jewish People that had to feel some pride during that time. We are a holy nation and after the six day war, everybody wanted to be holy. A famous letter to the editor of the Maariv said, “When will all these miracles stop so we can go back to the beach?”

We have our ups and downs throughout history, but this spiritual pride that we have began with the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

Why was the mountain on which the Torah was given was called Sinai? Why is the Sinai desert called Sinai?  Some people think that it has to do with the “Sneh”, the burning bush that Moshe found, but the Gemara in Berachos tells us that it is called Sinai because of the Nissim, the miracles that took place there. Also a ‘Neis’ is something that is raised up like a flag. G-d raised us up as His nation at har Sinai.

This is a little strange.  Nes is spelled nun-samech. The Gemara asks why wasn’t the mountain named Har Nisai? What is Har Sinai?

The answer is that not everyone saw the giving of the torah as uplifting and miraculous. Some people were actually filled with hate and Sinah.

Har Sinai, and the desert surrounding it, are named for the hatred and anti-Semitism that our Torah brought into the world.

How awful!

The Noam Elimelech explains this idea in a remarkable way. Everything, according to Chassidus, has sparks of holiness in it. Even the most evil men and women contain sparks of holiness. Those sparks yearn for the Torah and are resentful when they see us living in a G-dly fashion. They hate us because we received the Torah.

Just as a Freudian might point out that there are always underlying psychological reasons for hatred; there are underlying spiritual reasons for hatred as well. The holiest and most hidden parts of the evil people resent that they were not given the Torah. According to Chassidus these are the sparks resenting that they aren’t a part of the giving of the Torah.

Hatred is almost a good thing. It is a manifestation of the holiness and the quest for holiness that lies within a person.

Like any emotion, we can just hate, or we can look deeper into ourselves and get a truer understanding.

We are all holy and proud to be Jewish. Even when we find ourselves hating and spiteful we need to look deep inside and see if that is coming from a place of purity, because even the worst types of hatred came into this world at Har Sinai with the giving of the Torah.

Next time you feel unholy - look deeper.

Posted on 01/23 at 03:54 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 senderhaber@gmail.com