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Friday, January 15, 2010

No Expiration Date

Students are dependable vigilantes. College kids are always ready to stand up for a cause, stage a protest, and resist culture as we know it. Some student movements have been great; others have been terribly misinformed. All of them have been passionate.

Eventually, all students grow up, cut their hair, get a job and stop being so passionate.

My Yeshivos encouraged passion in the form of two basic teachings: (#1) Live your life according to the Torah and (#2) Never make a decision based on money.

In Yeshiva we were surrounded by people who lived by those ideals.

In Mir Yeshiva, I would sit next to Reb Nosson Tzvi Finkel Shlita. His shiur began at 4:30 and ended when he collapsed. He would give his last strength for the Torah.

In Lakewood, I saw Reb Dovid Schustal study with a nineteen year-old student. The Rosh Yeshiva refused to interrupt his learning to take calls from supporters. He could have made up the learning later, but he refused to make a decision based on money - even money for Yeshiva.

It seems to me that a Yeshiva education is not an initiation into an elite culture or an opportunity to memorize Torah facts. Yeshiva is the training ground for life. We may not learn how to grow a tomato or design a bridge, but we learn about priorities and how to live by them - regardless of difficulty or unpopularity.

When I feel tired or discouraged I remember Reb Nosson Tzvi, twitching and trembling with pain - trying to whisper just one more sentence of Torah before being escorted from the room.

When I make a difficult decision, I think of Reb Dovid Schustal, cool under pressure and consistent in his values.

When we left Yeshiva we were encouraged to keep up those ideals - regardless of where we are or what we are doing. When I decided to leave Lakewood many people tried to keep me there. When they said goodbye they encouraged me to stay strong. My friends told me to keep up my Torah learning so that I would have the strength to stay strong. I have a friend who has faithfully called me almost every month for the past eight years. Sometimes we speak for an hour and sometimes we speak for a minute, but he always calls for the same reason: to make sure that I haven’t compromised.

I remember going back to visit one of my Roshei Yeshiva. It was 11:00 at night, but he needed to cut our conversation short so that he could help his students review the daily shiur. Rather than send me home, he took me by the arm and introduced me to each one of his students. He had them present their questions to me and he encouraged me to respond. The Rosh Yeshiva wasn’t implying that I knew the material better than he did. He wasn’t trying teach the material at all. His goal was to let his passionate students know that he expected them to ‘keep at it’ and remain passionate even a decade after they left yeshiva. You don’t just become part of a Yeshiva for a few years; the Yeshiva needs to become a part of you forever.

Posted on 01/15 at 08:28 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