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Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Our entire Parsha this week focuses on Yitzchak but still we know very little about him. One could easily mistake Yitzchak for being someone who had very little to say. Over the next few weeks we will read about how Yaacov runs out in search of a wife, deals with Lavan, raises the twelve Shevatim, faces Eisav, and later deals with the brothers as Yosef disappears and they gradually make their way down to Mitzrayim. We don’t have those exciting stories when it comes to Yitzchak.

First of all, it is important to point out that it is a mistake to think less of someone because they don’t do anything exciting or innovative. Yitzchak was strong in his belief and was the only link in the chain that connects us with Avraham. What happened to all of Avraham’s servants and students? They disappeared. They did not have the willpower, the courage and the structured life to carry on Avraham’s legacy in a world that was still unaware of monotheism.

Yitzchak was the only one who stood his ground. When he came to Gerar he noted that all of his father’s wells had been refilled. This was pure spite. It was as if Avraham had built a chain of Royal Farms with free gas across the Negev and Avimelech’s people came and burned them down.

Yitzchak stood his ground because he knew that the land was to be ours and that the wells were a part of Avraham’s way of teaching kindness and G-dliness to the world. He systematically re-dug all of those wells and gave them the same names that his father had given them. When Avimelech and his advisors came to see Yitzchok, he was not flattered into submission. He put them in their place and said “why have you come to me for help? You hate me.” Imagine if a politician in the Middle East had the courage to say that today. Yitzchak agreed to a peace treaty that lasted all the way until the times of Yehoshua, but it was on his terms and with a clear articulation of Avimelech’s motives.

This is the lesson of Yitzchok. Not innovation. Not teaching. Just courage. Courage to stand up for what he believed in a world that wanted him to just go away.

So many of us feel vulnerable in our lives. It’s the world we live in. We watch people lose money, their good name and their health. We see people working hard and not getting much reward. We feel like giving up.

It is at times like those that we need to remember Yitzchak. He just did what was right. He had no doubts in his mind and he went full speed ahead.

In Brisk during the First World War there was once a Jew accused of treason and sentenced to death. Legally, he could not be executed until the rabbi came and performed his last rites. The Brisker Rav refused saying that he would not have a hand in shortening the Jew’s life. They were at a stalemate. The government officials came to shul to get the Brisker Rav but he was davening Shemona Esrei. Knowing that they would wait he just kept on davening while they stood exasperated. Finally, they put enough pressure on the community and another rabbi went and performed the last rites. Immediately after the execution a messenger came running to the courthouse pardoning the man. The Brisker Rav was famous for this. He knew he was right and would not give in. the others were swayed – as we might be – by surrounding events and outside pressure.

We need to emulate the Gevuras Yitzchak – the strength of Yitzchak – and stand our ground for what we believe in.

(Based in part on Abarbanel)

Posted on 11/18 at 03:08 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