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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Real Men

Yaacov was an Ish Tam. He was a very simple and straightforward man. Yet he tricked Eisav into agreeing to the worst deal in history.

How could he have known that Eisav would agree to such a ludicrous deal?

Rav Nachman Levovitz explains that from the moment that Eisav came in from the field demanding the lentil soup, Yaacov understood that values were meaningless to Eisav. Yaacov understood that the role of the bechor is to represent G-d in this world. To stand up for what is right and what is G-dly no matter the price.

Eisav was willing to act like an animal because he was hungry. He demanded the lentil soup raw and he wanted it to be poured down his throat. He had no self respect and certainly no desire to represent G-d. He couldn’t relate to the bechora at all.

There was no cunningness in Yaacov’s deal. Once Eisav was ready to sell the bechora for a price, he would sell it for any price at all.

We, who understand the idea of values won’t give up our values for anything.

Over the past two weeks (November 2012) we have witnessed two major tragedies. Last week there was a hurricane and, despite the lack of electricity, I had had constant updates from my sisters who had lost electricity and my sister who was evacuated from her home. I heard about the schools that closed down and the schools that may never be able to use their buildings again. I heard about the young couples who had their uninsured basements and cars flooded and lost all of their belongings. My sister described walking down streets strewn with waterlogged pieces of clothing that had floated there from all over New York.

This week my siblings in Eretz Yisroel started talking. They talked about the safest place to go for shabbos, about sitting in their homes and listening to riots and yelling from the arab neighborhoods and waiting to see who would be called up next from miluim. Less than one hour before shabbos everyone in Yerushalayim entered their bomb shelters for the first time since the Gulf War.

I was touched by the amount of support that the people in New York are getting and the amount of hochnosas orchim and tefilla that the evacuees and soldiers in Israel are getting, but I was most touched by the way these issues transcended oceans. For the entire week after the hurricane, my siblings in Israel were describing the concern that everyone in Israel was feeling. For the past few days I’ve been watching how people in the United States are mobilizing davening, petitioning congress members and worrying about their relatives.

That is what we do. That is why we are Yaacov’s grandchildren; we value people, we value life, and we hate to see suffering. We do what we can to alleviate it.

That is what is going on right now in Gaza. The Israeli army spends millions of shekels developing technology to take out the really bad guys without hurting their wives and children and best friends. In return we just get more indiscriminate rockets. It would be easier to treat them as they treat us. But we can’t. It isn’t what we do. It is against our values. There is no price in the world that was cause us to fire indiscriminately when we have a way of sparing the lives of Palestinians.

Rav Shach used to say that we are not fighting a normal enemy. Usually when you kill the enemy you have won. In their book you can win by dying. They can win by having their wives and children shot by Israelis and by having their neighbors homes destroyed. A bombed hospital is a victory for them, and the worse the conditions are for their people the more they have succeeded. These are the people that the Israeli army needs to fight. And it is hard because we won’t stoop to their level. We can’t stoop to their level and we don’t have it in us to stoop to their level.

That is what Yaacov had that Eisav did not. Eisav had no self respect. He had no values. He had no problem demanding food and demanding that it be poured, raw, down his throat. Yaacov understood that a man like that had no problem giving up his role as G-d’s ambassador to the world. Once he had a price, any price would work.

We need to be proud of our people. We need to be proud of the organizations in New York who have helped Jews and non-Jews with dignity and alacrity and self-sacrifice. We need to be proud of communities all over Israel who are opening their homes to evacuees from the cities and regions of Beersheba, Ashdod, Hof Ashkelon, Ashkelon, Shear Hanegev, Ofakim, Sderot, Eshkol and Kiryat Malachi, and we need to be proud of our soldiers and government who refuse to stoop to the level of their enemies.

Most of all we need to be proud of our grandfather Yaacov who stood up to Eisav. We need to be proud of our position as G-d’s chosen people and His ambassadors in this world.

Eisav was willing to give up his values for a pot of soup; we won’t give them up if our life depends on it.

May we share only shalom and good news.

Posted on 11/22 at 10:32 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