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Friday, June 05, 2009


I have always said that when learning Gemara, it is worthwhile to look up the sources and learn the entire amud.

President Obama quoted the Talmud (Gittin 59b) as saying “The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace”. The statement is based on the words of King Solomon (Proverbs 3:17): “And all of it’s way’s are peace”. (Of course, the president could have just quoted Proverbs, but he preferred to quote the Oral law which is considered uniquely Jewish).

The Gemara in question actually quotes this verse in the process of explaining why we don’t give Kohanim the second Aliya.

I once approached Rabbi Nota Greenblatt Shlita with an interesting discrepancy:

We know that if a Yisroel got the Kohein Aliyah there would be no need to call a Cohen for the second Aliya.

Yet, if the first Aliya was given to a Kohein it is forbidden to give the second Aliyah to a different Kohein because People might think that the first Kohein was no good. I found this puzzling because the halacha is that even if the first Kohein WAS no good we wouldn’t have called up a second one. The only problem is that people will THINK that you called the second Kohein because there was a problem with the first.

Rabbi Greenblatt explained that whether a person has really been degraded is not the issue. The issue is that they feel degraded.

We find two important examples of this in Parshas Nasso: The Nesi’im thought that they would outdo everyone by contributing last, but when they missed their chance to contribute they were criticized for their laziness. The innocent passerby had nothing to do with the guilt of the Adulterous woman, but he is told to be become a Nazir all the same. We don’t care what was meant; we deal with what happened.

My mother used to always make us watch Mr. Safrin stuff his mouth with a napkin. Sometimes he just couldn’t stop talking and there were things can just couldn’t be said. “Whether you mean to hurt him or not”, Mr Safrin taught us, “He will cry”.

We spend hours trying to justify our remarks, actions and comments, but it Doesn’t Matter. Even if I am indisputably in the right and the other is being totally unreasonable, the facts remain the same: Somebody is hurt because of something that I said.

The Talmud tells the story of Reb Rechumi who would study all year and come home only on Erev Yom Kippur. One Year, Reb Ruchumi was too engrossed in learning and neglected to come home. Reb Rechumi’s wife, who waiting for him, finally broke down in disappointment and shed a tear. At that moment the roof which Reb Rechumi was sitting on collapsed and he fell to his death.  (Kesuvos 62b).

Of course Mrs. Rechumi had no desire to see her husband die and it obviously didn’t make things easier for her. Reb Chaim Shmuelevitz explains that Re Rechumi’s death was inevitable: Mrs’ Rechumi’s tear was a ball of fire, a live grenade, and a loaded weapon created by the deep pain of a holy woman. The Tear had a power and a life of it’s own. The Tear, not the logic or the circumstance, was what killed Reb Rechumi.

The whole of the Torah is for the sake of promoting peace. Whether we are calling people up for Aliyos, Donating money to the Beis Hamikdosh, Observing a Sotah, Talking to ourst friends or engrossed in Torah study, we need to take responsibility, regardless of intent, for the tears we provoke.

(I can’t help but point out that if President Obama had chosen to go over the entire amud he could have brought an excellent example from the Egyptian irrigation systems and etiquette described in the Mishna… and there is is a great Steipler that he could have thrown in for emphasis… not to mention the Reb Chaim in Stencil. Oh well.)


Posted on 06/05 at 06:22 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