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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Israeli Coffee

I was sitting in Little Israel the other day when we were invaded by the United States military. A huge Navy guy - clearly not Jewish - stormed in and made a direct assault on the South-Eastern sector of the store. He extracted five large tins of Elite Coffee and victoriously roared: “Best coffee in the world”.

I’ve had Elite coffee. I once forced down seven cups in a row because the first six didn’t work. I am told that even the ascetic Steipler Gaon of Bnei Berak didn’t like Elite coffee. I have never willingly chosen Elite coffee over any other brand.

Navy guys can drink two or three pots of coffee a day. They travel to ports around the world and (presumably) sample the local coffee. Some even go to the seven star Burj al Arab Hotel in Dubai and sample every coffee there. On base, Navy guys can go to the commissary and buy any number of brand name and gourmet coffees at special military pricing. And yet, here was a GI getting his Joe in Little Israel with a triumphant holler and a victorious grin.

Elite does take their coffee very seriously. According to the website, drinking just one cuppa is an opportunity to “Get rejuvenated, excited, discover new worlds and even surprise yourself.” (Maybe we could figure out a way to move the main production plant to Sderot, we would have elite Navy SEALS standing in line for insertion into Gaza to defend their beloved brew. The mid-east crisis would be solved – for beans).

I looked around Little Israel Kosher Deli and Food Store and took in the Israelis, the food, the fighting and the faith and I realized that I haven’t been taking enough time to appreciate Eretz Yisroel and everything it has to offer.

Rabbi Mordechai Dolinsky, of Jerusalem, went to the Kosel (Western Wall) for the first time on Shavuos 1967. He was so taken by the experience that he went back to the Kosel the next day, and the next, and the next, and the next. To the best of my knowledge he still walks or rides the bus to the Kosel each and every day. He doesn’t daven shacharis there or give a shiur; he goes to spend a few minutes close to Hashem at the holiest place on earth.

Three centuries ago, a man went to the great Kabbalist Rabbi Chaim ibn Atar because he had no money. He needed one golden napoleon each month to support his family. The Ohr Hachayim gave the man a sealed envelope and told him to place it in the Kosel. From that day on the man found, earned, or otherwise procured a golden napoleon every single month. Finally, unable to contain his curiosity, he went back to the Kosel and ripped open the envelope. The envelope contained but a simple message: “Hashem, Please give this man one golden Napoleon every month”.

Rabbi Aharon Yosef Brizel explained to me that there is a special connection to Hashem that even the holiest Jew cannot achieve unless he is standing at the Kosel. This connection is so simple that many people fail to appreciate it.

Several years ago I was asked to officiate at a funeral for a man I did not know. This man had never been married and had no immediate family at all. When I did some research, I found that the deceased had held the key and acted as caretaker and custodian at the Chevrah Tehillim Synagogue in Portsmouth for over fifty years (it is rumored that Rav Mordechai Gifter grew up in that shul). The shul has not been used in decades and I was surprised to find that very few people gave Sol credit for his devotion. They didn’t understand why he was bothering with an old shul and an ancient cemetery. People tried to sell it, merge it, give it away or knock it down. Sol wouldn’t hear of it. He fought for the shul meticulously and kept it standing and Orthodox until the day he died.

At the funeral, I told the story of Reb Yosi who was traveling through Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago. It was time to pray and he searched for a peaceful place where he could pray without interruption. Passing an abandoned synagogue he entered and, amidst the dust and rubble, began to pray earnestly. As he prayed in this holy place the saintly Elijah the prophet appeared and waited patiently. (This was an abandoned building and Elijah wanted to protect Reb Yosi from harm).

As Rabbi Yosi finished his prayers he noticed Eliyahu for the first time. The prophet asked him: What did you hear as you were praying in the abandoned Synagogue? Rabbi Yosi’s answer was surprising: “I heard a heavenly voice crying out”.

Elijah explained to Reb Yosi that a heavenly voice can be heard three times a day in all unused synagogues. Only some have ears to hear it.

“Even in their desolation they remain holy”. A synagogue is more than just a convenient meeting place. The very walls of the synagogue hold history and holiness that only some of us can fathom. Three times daily G-d returns to these synagogues and remembers the Jewish people.

I related the story to Sol and Chevra Thilim, but Rav Kook explains that Reb Yosi’s Churva was none other than the Kosel, the site of the destroyed Beis Hamikdosh.

The Kosel, Jerusalem and the land of Israel call out to us each day. Only some of us have ears to hear and to appreciate.

Maxwell House in Your Cup is not The Best Part of Waking Up.  “Focus on the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life”.



Posted on 01/08 at 06:16 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