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Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Own It

This year I noticed something interesting at the end of Parshas Noach. Terach took his wife and children and set out on a trip from their homeland of Ur Kasdim toward the land of Canaan. They stopped in Charan where they settled.

In this context it is a little bit difficult to understand the great test that Avraham was given to leave his birthplace, his family, and his land. According to the Ibn Ezra, Avram may have received these instructions when he was still in Ur Kasdim. Why was it such a big deal to go to Canaaan when he was practically on his way there anyway?

There is a famous Kabbalist who had a relative that was not religious and was sadly addicted to some very dangerous substances. The Kabbalist, who is a great Talmid Chacham asked my father to learn with him. At one point they made a ‘Tikkun’ for the man’s Neshama and it worked. The relative treated his addiction and became religious.

Many years later, the relative regressed into his old habits. He moved out of Israel and basically disappeared off the face of the earth. My father asked the Kabbalist, “Did the Tikkun have a time limit?!”

The surprising answer was that, yes, there was a time limit. All a Tikkun can do is jumpstart somebody’s neshama. It can give them a surge of holiness that can change their lives. But, like a car, they are not truly charged until their engine starts running on its’ own.

Avraham had already left his nation and his birthplace. He was already on his way to Eretz Yisroel, but it was just a family trip – an ethnic migration. Hashem said to Avraham “Lech Lecha!” Go for yourself! Make it our own. Own it. Make it a part of you, not just a part of where you’ve been shlepped.

The Medrash at the end of Noach tells the story of Haran. He was watching when Avraham stuck up for G-d and was thrown into the fiery furnace. He decided that if Avraham survived, then he too would jump into the furnace. He did, but did not survive. The Torah wasn’t his - it was just something that he was doing because it seemed to work for Avraham. It’s like telling a joke that you don’t get, because somebody laughed last time.

Haran’s son Lot had the same problem. He was Avraham’s closest companion, but he just didn’t get it. He allowed his flocks to graze in private fields and made a bad name for Avraham. Eventually he settled in Sedom. Lot also left his homeland to follow the commandments of Hashem, but he didn’t ‘own it’, he was just tagging along.

For Avraham it was Lech Lecha; for Lot it was ‘Vayelech Ito Lot’.

The lesson from Avraham and Lech Lecha is that we need to do the right thing, but we need to also do it for the right reasons. We need to put thought and intent into every action that we do.

We need to Own It.

Posted on 10/09 at 11:17 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