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Friday, April 29, 2011

Pirkei Avos

I am fortunate to have grown up in a home which put great emphasis on Pirkei Avos. Boruch Hashem, the enthusiasm has carried on to my young students who have been begging for weeks: “Rabbi Haber, when can we start Pirkei Avos?”

I believe that we begin Pirkei Avos in the weeks after Pesach to emphasize that leaving Egypt and slavery was not enough. We need to continue to work on ourselves, to strive for more and to grow as people.

When we tell the story of Pesach we are instructed to “begin with Bad and end with Praise”.

Why aren’t we told to “begin with Bad and end with Good”? Wouldn’t that be more appropriate?

The Mishna is recognizing that Pesach is not the end. Even the first Pesach wasn’t perfect. We were able to praise Hashem, but we still had a long way to go.

Even in Hallel, which should be the ultimate praise of Hashem, we cannot help but interrupt with a plea of “Anah Hashem” - “Please Save us Hashem!”. It is not contradictory to praise Hashem while simultaneously look forward to something better.

On the last day of Pesach an older woman in our Shul shared a Pesach experience with me. She told me that in 1942, she was a young girl in Belgium and her father, a religious Jew, did not have access to a Jewish calendar. He estimated when Pesach would be and was able to procure one bag of black flour. As the family stood around, he baked one round Matzah and together they recited the Brachos and ate their ‘bread of freedom’. That was their Pesach.

Was that Pesach ‘good’? I don’t think so. But it was a chance to praise Hashem. The family had been previously torn apart. They had survived trying times. Finally, they were able to reunite and celebrate together as Jews. They even had some flour and an oven. They had plenty to thank Hashem for, but they had even more to hope for in the future.

Pesach is a holiday of freedom and of praise. It is not the end of the road. Even as we celebrate our freedom from slavery, we begin to count the days to the giving of the Torah on Shavuos.

May we always be fortunate to have the opportunity to continue to grow and to have young Jewish boys who are anxious to learn ancient texts on character refinement.

I have put together some material on the first chapter of Pirkei Avos. Please use the link below.

Pirkei Avos - Chapter One (45 pages)

Also, don’t miss the upcoming Jewish Motorcycle Alliance’s convention in Virginia Beach. Our local president and founder, Mike Ashe, wrote a great article entitled Kosher Hogs for the UJFT blog. I noticed that he left out several details in order to make it sound more like a tea party and less like a convention of Jewish Motorcyclists.

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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