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Sunday, November 04, 2012

Look Not Upon the Storm

G-d came to visit Avraham Avinu. We tend to assume that G-d appeared to Avraham all the time but Avraham was one hundred years old and this was only the sixth recorded conversation.

As they were speaking, Avraham noticed three travelers in the distance. They looked like pagans and idol worshipers and they tried to avoid Avraham. They clearly were not desperate. Yet, Avraham asked Hashem to wait a moment so that he could run after the three arabs.

We know that when we come to shul we are supposed to run, but when we leave shul we are not allowed to run. When we get an Aliyah we make sure to go up the short way, but when we go down we take the long way. Here Avraham was talking to Hashem. He was sitting down because he was weak, yet when he saw the guests he literally ran away from Hashem to help some some nomads who, in all likelihood denied G-d’s existence.

The Gemara learns from here that greeting a guest is more important than greeting the shechinah.

Hashem did not put Avraham into this world to talk to G-d. Avraham didn’t have to be born for that. Avraham’s mission in this world was to do kindness and to spread the word of G-d. As long as there were no guests around Avraham was “content” to transcend his physical reality and speak with G-d. But now that he had an opportunity to fulfill his true mission, Avraham knew that Hashem would prefer that he speak to the guests.

Sometimes we encounter a person suffering and our first thought is to try to think about whether this person deserves to suffering. Avraham taught us that this is not our role. Our job is to help the people.

Everyone is talking about hurricane Sandy. Some people talk about why Hashem sent the hurricane and how we are too confident in ourselves and too dependent on technology and gasoline. Other people talked about how to help all of the families that were evacuated and lost their belongings.

It is true that the Gemara says that “Hashem created thunder in order to show us His might and His power”, but that can only be our focus when there is nobody who needs help. If someone needs help, we need to focus on how to help them. When everyone is helped we can go back to philosophizing and becoming frummer.

There was major controversy in many shuls this week. People were coming to davening to recharge. They would plug their phones into the outlets, warm up, drink some coffee, schmooze, and also daven a little bit. Didn’t they learn their lesson? Couldn’t they survive without their cellphones and blackberries. Wasn’t Hashem teaching us to have more respect for His “home” and come to daven, not shmooze and steal electricity?

Of course, but all that comes later.

Avraham taught that as long as we are within halachic parameters, our first responsibility is to help others.

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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