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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Nights of our Lives

A Series of Thoughts on the Hagada

Note: The following is a somewhat involved and complicated thought process based on the Hagada and the mitzvah to remember our Exodus from Egypt. I hope that it serves as a springboard for thought and an opportunity to find new meaning in your Yom Tov.

I

• In the Hagada we praise Hashem because he kept his promise, he had the end perfectly worked out and He took us out of Mitzrayim at the perfect moment.

• If Hashem had waited even one more moment it would have been too late and we would have been impossible to rescue. Yet, we praise Him for waiting. Why couldn’t Hashem take us out earlier? We would never honor a lifeguard for waiting until the last possible moment before diving into the pool and saving a life!

II

• Earlier, Rabi Elazar Ben Azaria said:"I am like a seventy-year old man and I did not merit to convince my colleagues that there is a Mitzva to mention the Exodus from Egypt at night, until Ben Zoma explained it by quoting: “In order that you may remember the day you left Egypt all the days of your life.” The Torah adds the world all to the phrase ‘the days of your life’ to teach us that the nights are meant as well . (The Sages explained that “the days of your life” means This World and the word “all “ includes the days of the coming of Moshiach)

• Although many argued, it seems that the Halacha is in accordance with Rabi Eliezer and Yetzias Mitarayim must be remembered both at night and during the day (Shaagas Aryeh). This poses a problem since we know that women are obligated in Mitzvos that are not time-bound and it would follow that women should recite Shema every evening (which they do not do).

• What are we remembering when we remember Mitzrayim? In Brachos, Rabi Akiva says that the Mitzva is only to remember the actual exodus, which happened during the day. Rabi Eliezer argues that we are remembering the frantic Egyptians of the night before our redemption. We remember How Pharaoh (in pajamas in the middle of the night) begged us to leave. (Since the miracle happened at midnight, Rebi Eliezer rules that we must finish the Matzah by midnight. R’ Akiva allows the Matzah to be eaten until morning)

• Rebi Eliezer is teaching that even though we were not totally free at midnight, our obligation is to remember that Hashem was with us IN Mitzrayim during the most confusing and difficult times.

• This is why Hashem waited until the last minute to take us out: We had a lot to learn through our suffering. We now know that as low as we go we can always get up again.

• Many people have a minhag to eat a hard boiled egg on Pesach, the Chasam Sofer explains that just as an egg gets harder the more it is boiled; we also become stronger and stronger by being in the worst kinds of situations.

• We can now answer our halachic question: Even if, according to Rabi Eliezer, we must remember Egypt during the day and at night – we can split the obligation into two separate mitzvos. During the day we remember the clear exodus; at night we remember the confusion in Mitzrayim. Rather than being one non-time-bound mitzvah, Zechiras Yetzias Mitzrayim is actually made up of two separate time-bound mitzvos: one during the day and one at night.

III

• Why Does Rabi Elazar Ben Azaria say “I’m, like, Seventy years old”? The Gemara in Brachos teaches us that Rabi Elazar Ben Azaria was only eighteen years old when he was appointed as Nasi – leader – of the Jewish people. Because of his youthful appearance, his wife was afraid that people wouldn’t respect him.  A miracle happened and his beard turned white and he looked like a seventy year old man. (THE MEKUBALIM WRITE that Rabi Elazar Ben Azaria had the Soul of Shmuel HaNaviwho lived for fifty-two years. Rabi Elazar Ben Azaria hinted to this when he compared himself to a seventy year old.  His own eighteen years plus the fifty-two years that his Neshama was in Shmuel HaNavi ‘s body comes to a total of seventy years.)

• Perhaps we can add another reason: In Masechtas Makos, Rabi Elazar ben Azarya says that ideally capital punishment should not take place more often than once in seventy years. Perhaps Reb Elazar ben Azaria was commenting on the amount of death and killing that he had seen in his lifetime.

• During the daytime everything is clear; at night things are unclear and confusing. In a person’s lifetime there are ‘days’ and ‘nights’.

• Remembering our redemption from Egypt at night is allegorical to celebrating in tough times. G-d has always been with us and we must always remember that. When the going gets tough; the tough get going. At the same time we need to remember Hashem when things are perfect. We need to remember how Hashem helped us reach that day when we walked as free men toward Eretz Yisroel.

Posted on 04/02 at 02:29 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