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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Our Song

There are so many elements to Parshas Beshalach: the splitting of the sea, the Mon, and the war with Amalek. Still Shira seems to be the focal point for which the shabbos is named.

Shira can be translated as song, as poetry, or even random sounds. It is an articulation of something that is going on deep in our neshamos.

Shira is not simple. King David wrote the Psalms and somehow he has been the standard bearer for Shirah for over two thousand years. Everyone respects the Psalms of King David.

A life in which we cannot express ourselves and in which we suppress our emotions is a very frustrating life.

The Piasetzner writes in Shalosh Maamaros (2:5) that there are three levels of prophecy. The highest is Ruach Hakodesh, but diectly below that is Shirah. The level right below Shirah is Prayer. The idea is that our souls are full of lofty G-dly ideas. We contain a ‘piece’ of G-d inside of us. We don’t always feel holy because articulating those ideas is tricky and we have so many other thoughts inside of us but when we achieve prayer or Shira we have achieved a measure of Ruach Hakodesh, even prophecy.

I once went to King David’s grave in Israel. Many people say that it is not King David’s grave, the Christians say that it was the site of the last supper and the Muslim’s say that it is theirs, but I felt a need to go so I went.

I went to the sarcophagus and quietly began to say a bit of tehillim from memory. It was the same Tehillim that we say every morning in shul, but this time I was saying it right next to King David. Next to me there was a Breslover clapping loudly and jumping up and down in prayer. Out of the corner of my eye I saw an Israeli teenager walk in. He had no Yarmulke and he looked at the grave and at me and at the Breslover and then he just stood there. He was lost. He couldn’t recite Tehillim from memory and he certainly wasn’t going to jump up and down and clap.

Just then a fourth person walked into the room.

He went over to that Israeli teenager and said “Do you want to pray?” Together they recited – in their native tongue- “Mizmor Ledavid hashem Ro’i Lo Echsar...” – “A psalm written by David: G-d is my shepherd, I shall not want…” I watched as another boy stood by silently waiting his turn. They were Israeli teenagers wandering around the old city. They all wanted to pray and they didn’t know how.

Dovid Hamelech was the heart of all of us. He sang our songs and he wrote our poems. We need to take the time to articulate our feelings before G-d.

If we can do it in prayer, great!

If we can teach others to pray, great!

The main thing is not to let our lives pass us by without learning how to truly access the depths of our hearts – and pray and sing and articulate the holy feelings that percolate inside every one of us.

Posted on 01/16 at 11:27 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