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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Mechilas Yosef

I had occasion to visit the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth this week. It was not very hard to get in, but there was serious security and I did need to prove to them that I belonged there. As soon as I was cleared by security, I entered and noted a very large billboard with the message “Hand Hygiene Saves Lives”. Indeed, as I walked through the hospital, hand hygiene was clearly the theme of the month. When I reached the room where I was going I was ordered by a very stern nurse in fatigues to make a sharp right upon entering the room and use hand sanitizer.

Here I was, surrounded by some of the toughest people in the world who have met face to face with some of our most dangerous enemies and they were obsessing about these little tiny invisible germs. Sissies!

At the end of our Parsha the brothers approach Yosef with a message from Yaacov: “forgive us”. This is odd because we have no record at all of Yaacov making this request. On the contrary, there are many indications that Yaacov had no idea that there was anything to forgive. Nobody ever told him the story. Rashi tells us that the brothers were bending the truth.

Clearly, the brothers thought that Yaacov knew but that they had not told him. They suspected Yosef of telling him. Yosef on the other hand had kept his silence all these years. When the brothers came to him with their untruth he cried because they clearly did not understand what he was all about. They thought that he was like Eisav, waiting for his father’s death do that he could kill them.

The Medrash Tanchuma writes that when the brothers were on their way back from burying Yaacov, Yosef made a detour at the pit where the brothers had thrown him. He made a blessing thanking Hashem for saving him on that day.

The brothers were petrified; they thought that Yosef was working himself up for revenge. In reality he was just thanking Hashem for everything that had happened.

Rabbeinu Bachaye writes that Yosef never actually did forgive the brothers. We suffered in later generations because of that forgiveness that never took place. We say on Yom Kippur that the ten martyrs were a result of that sale. Reb Elchanan writes that the blood libels may have been residual punishment for the dipping of Yosef’s coat in goat blood. Who knows how much infighting the Jews have gone through as a result of the sale of Yosef and the fact that it was never resolved.

We can’t just ignore things and sweep them under the carpet. We need to recognize that they are germs that can cause terrible disease. We also can’t assume that we understand what the other person is thinking. The brothers thought that Yosef would plot revenge and Yosef thought that the brother’s knew him better than that.

We need to time things right and be careful about bringing up the past, but we also can’t assume that we know what is going on in another person’s heart.

(Based in part on “Teachings” by Rabbi Asher Brander)

Posted on 12/30 at 11:15 PM • 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