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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lessons of 17 Tammuz

The only amendment to Shemona Esrei on the 17th of Tammuz is during Mincha. The reason given is because the Tefila of Aneinu was composed by Ellijah the prophet during the time of the Mincha. The scripture tells us that Eliyahu was only answered at Mincha.

The commentaries explain that unlike Shacharis and Maariv, Mincha necessarily comes in the middle of our daily routine. The uniqueness of Mincha is the distraction and turmoil that often accompanies it. Shacharis is said before we begin our day and Maariv can be said when we are finished with our day. Davening Mincha is like opening a window for G-d to peek into our lives.

The seventeenth of Tammuz is the anniversary of the smashing of the Luchos and the burning of the Torah by Apostumous. There is obviously a connection between the two. Also on this day, at various times in our history, the walls of Jerusalem were breached, the daily sacrifice was discontinued and an idol was erected in the holy of holies.

Aside from the common denominator that we will discuss, it is important to remember Hashem’s promise to spread the punishment for the golden calf over many years. Any tragedy is connected to the golden calf.

The Medrash tells us that when Moshe came down from Mount Sinai the tablets suddenly became heavy. The holy letters, written by G-d, could not bear to enter the presence of idol worshippers. In Moshe’s greatest and most dramatic lesson to the Jewish people, he showed that holiness couldn’t exist in a place where it is unwelcome.

The Torah ends with the death of Moshe and an epitaph to his life. The very last three words of the Torah, L’eienei Kol Yisroel, reference Moshe’s bold and dramatic demonstration that Torah cannot coexist with idol worship.

Eliyahu didn’t tell the people to serve Hashem. He told the people to make up their minds: If you are for Hashem – stay with Hashem; but if you are for the Baal – stay with the Baal.

The lesson of Moshe, Eliyahu, and Mincha are all the same: Even in the most hectic times of our day and on the craziest days of our lives, we need to be sure that Hashem is welcome.

Rabbi Hirsch points out that the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh was no surprise. The only surprise was that Hashem stopped protecting and dwelling in the Beis Hamikdosh. The burning of the Torah, the breaking of the Luchos, the desecration of the Holy of Holies, the discontinuation of the Tamid and the breaching of the wall were all a result of our actions that mage the Shechina unwelcome in our midst.

May we merit to make Hashem feel welcome in our homes, our lives and our lands. May this Tisha B’av be a day of holiness and joy in the cities of Yehuda and the courtyards of Yerushalayim.

Posted on 06/30 at 03:11 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