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Thursday, July 05, 2012

Like a Rolling Stone - Lessons From Miriam’s Well

When Miriam was very young, she predicted that her brother Moshe would grow up to be a great person. Even after he was thrown into the Nile, Miriam stayed behind hidden in the reeds to see what would happen to him and see if there was anything she could do to help. As a reward for staying behind at the water, Miriam was given the “Well of Miriam”.

Rashi explains that that the Well of Miriam was actually a stone. It rolled with the Jewish people in their travels and miraculously gave water. During the all of the time that the Jewish people were travelling in the desert they were able to stay hydrated only because of this well of Miriam. When Miriam passed away, the well stopped giving water. When the Jewish people came to Moshe and complained about the lack of water, Moshe turned to Hashem who gave him very precise instructions. Moshe was to bring a stick, talk to the stone, Nd command it to give forth water. Moshe gathered the people and got the stone to start supplying water again, but instead of talking to the stone he hit it.

Moshe was criticized harshly for hitting the stone. It was one of the reasons why he was not allowed to enter the land of Israel. Many reasons are given for this criticism, but I would like to add my own two cents:

Miriam’s well was a reward for her kindness to her brother Moshe. It is very significant that the reward for her kindness was the opportunity to do more kindness. She could have been blessed with long years, health, a new car, or respect. Instead she was rewarded with a well that would keep the Jewish people hydrated in the desert.

Miriam understood that the greatest reward for kindness is kindness itself. When we fulfill the will of Hashem we are doing what we were created and designed to do. There is no better feeling than that.

We find a similar idea when Miriam (together with her mother Yocheved) defied Pharaoh’s orders to abort all of the Jewish children. Their reward for saving the Jewish children was that the Jewish children continued to multiply. The act itself was enough reward. They didn’t need anything else.

When Miriam passed away it was important that this lesson be preserved. Hashem told Moshe to speak to the stone and have it burst forth with water. There is no ‘stone heaven’ and the stone had nothing to gain by giving the water. By listening to the word of Hashem the stone would be giving forth water only because that was the will of its creator. This was to be an important lesson to the Jewish people. They were not to look for reward and punishment, but to act because their creator required it.

When Moshe hit the stone, he lost an important part of that message. Now, the stone gave water because it had been hit. It was reacting to reward and punishment, but not to its ultimate role in this world. The Jewish people still learned an important lesson, but not the lesson of serving Hashem for it’s own sake with no regard for immediate gratification or consequence. (Sources: Taanis 9a and Rabbeinu Bechayei as cited in “Teachings” by Rabbi A. Brander)

Posted on 07/05 at 04:44 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 senderhaber@gmail.com