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Friday, December 11, 2015

Stampede! (Chanukah)

There was once a group of researchers who went to North Africa and planted tomatoes. They felt really good about themselves for pioneering a new source of food and revenue for the natives. Indeed, the tomatoes were beautiful. Just as the tomatoes were about to ripen completely, the scientists were shocked to notice a herd of elephants come through and stampede the tomatoes. There was absolutely nothing they could do. They quickly realized that unless they were to spend all their projected income on repelling elephants, tomato crops would never flourish in Africa.

They also realized that the natives had known this all along. The scientists thought they knew better and were unwilling to listen.

King David said: “Rabas Tzraruni M’neurai”. Usually translated as “Many things have oppressed me from my youth”, it can also be translated as “The way that I developed has oppressed m from my youth”. The Jewish people have been oppressed because of our collective insistence on relying on G-d. It is our oldest form of defense since Avraham jumped in to a fiery furnace and it is what the Yevanim tried to take away from us. They wanted us to write “We have no portion with the G-d of the Jews”, but that is so intrinsic to who and what we are.

When we face adversity we need to go back to the basics. We need to trust our Emunah. The Greeks had many things to offer us, but without Hashem we have nothing.

Everything that the Greeks were selling could only be accepting in the context of enhancing what we already have. We need to cultivate our relationship with hashem before we get excited about the tomatoes. We might find that they can’t even last in our unique environment.  Not everything that works for the Greeks will work for us.

The Gemara tells us (23b) that Shabbos candles take precedence over Chanukah candles. We learn this from the pasuk “Tiznach M’shalom Nafshi”. The Gemara says that since the Shabbos candles are there for Shalom, we are obligated to take care of them first.

Shabbos Candles are not actually more important than Chanuka Candles. It is Shalom in the home that is more important than Chanuka. Reb Moshe Feinstein rules that nowadays Chanukah candles do not take precedence over Shabbos candles. We are not concerned about Shalom because we have electric lights.

Thank G-d, we can all afford to keep our houses well lit and to light Chanuka candles, but I believe that there is a very simple lesson here. We need to work on what we have before we work on what other people are trying to throw at us. The idea of Neiros Chanukah is Pirsumei Nissa, publicizing the miracle, but step number one is to make sure that we have Shalom right here in our neshamos and in our homes. Once we have taken care of ourseves, we can start accepting new ideas and, finally, fulfill our obligation of publicizing what we have to the entire world.

Posted on 12/11 at 10:16 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