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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How is it Going to End?

Yosef moved to Mitzrayim when he was seventeen years old. All of the Jews in the world had shunned him and sold him down the river. He was very young and he had no support system. When Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Yosef he almost succumbed. The Gemara tells us that the last moment he saw and image of his father and ran away, leaving his coat behind. (He looked like his father and some say thathe saw a reflection of himself). Over the next two decades he proved that he could remain faithful to Hashem and succeed in a strange land.

Yosef named his first son Menashe because “Hashem had allowed him to forget his troubles in a strange land”. He named his second son Efrayim because “He had been able to prosper in the land of suffering”.

Yosef and his sons were the first Jews in galus. It is not an ideal existence, but it is an existence. We can forget our suffering and we can prosper.

When Yaacov was on his deathbed, Yosef brought his sons to Yaacov’s bedside. As the sons grew closer, Yaacov lost his divine spirit. “Mi Eileh?”, “Who are these?” he asked.

Of course, Yaacov knew exactly who they were, but he was puzzled. He had seen that Yeravam ben Nevat would descend from Menashe. He would cause the Jewish people to
worship idols. He saw Achav the evil king of Yisroel who would put all of the Neviim to death and, according to Rashi, he saw Yehu who would kill Achav only to continue in his wicked ways.

Yaacov saw the coming generations and did not want to bless them. Yosef fell to his knees and begged “Banai Heim!” These are my children! Even Yaravam who will say “Eilah” is my son. Please bless them.

Yaacov blessed them, but first he hugged them and he kissed them. He blessed them that all future generations would be like them.

Yaacov recognized that galus would be tough for the Jews. We would assimilate we would even worship idols, but we would always have that quality of “Banai”. He blessed us because we would be able to look at where we came from and clean up our act. We would be able to look in the mirror and say – this really isn’t me.

Shlomo Carlbach tells the story of a tankist who was antireligious. He refused to visit his parents’ home until they took down the picture of his grandfather who was hanging on the wall. He was embarrassed to have such ancestors. During the war, he got into a situation where he was running from a line of Egyptian tanks. As he sped up to join his fellow tanks he saw a Jew standing and davening in the middle of the desert. He muttered with disgust but veered to the side. How could he run over a Jew? The Egyptian tank did not detour – and blew up on a land mine.

The Tankist came home and took a good look at the picture. Sure enough, it was his grandfather who he had seen there on the battlefield. It was his grandfather’s prayers and his willingness to sacrifice his life for a fellow Jew that saved his life.

Yaacov blessed all of his children with an eye on the future and on the strengths and weaknesses that would present throughout history. At the end he called his sons together to describe the end of days, but once again the shechina left him. He could picture the future but he couldn’t picture the end of days.

Sometimes the end of days is elusive. It isn’t as easy as looking it up on a Mayan calendar or finding a piece of Zohar. We are coming closer, but we still aren’t sure exactly how it is going to end. We need to survive with the knowledge that as bad as things sometimes look and as bad as Jews sometimes behave, there is hope for the Jew in exile. Yosef survived by picturing his father. Menashe and Efrayim followed his lead and prospered in Galus. Yaacov encouraged us to encourage our children to model themselves after Efrayim and Menashe. In that we way, we too will prosper and, ultimately, we will see the happy ending.

Posted on 12/11 at 10:50 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