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Friday, May 01, 2015


Moshe taught us the fifty one mitzvos found in this week’s parsha. He began with the commandment: “Kedoshim Tihiyu’ – You must be holy.

We are all familiar with holiness. Hopefully, we’ve been in contact with holy individuals, experienced holy times and visited holy places. Moshe taught us that this was not enough. We all need to be holy.

One of the themes in the Parsha “V’ahavta L’reiacha kamocha”. We need to love our friend as we love ourselves. We hear about this mitzvah so often that we sometimes don’t think about its simple meaning.

Rabi Akiva taught that there is an exception to this halacha: when our lives are in danger. If there is only one cup of water in the desert or one parachute, we may keep it for ourselves. He proves this from the verse ‘V’chai Bahem’. The Ramban points out that Rabi Akiva had to source his leniency because the simple understanding of the commandment to love someone else doesn’t seem to have any exclusion at all.

Aristotle held that it is possible to keep our minds clear of emotion. We could have neutral feelings about a person. Abarbanel explains that the Torah disagrees. Either you love someone or you hate them or you are very mixed up. Our hearts are small and life is short so rather than complicate our hearts with conflicting emotions of love and hate, the Torah tells us to keep it simple. Just love them. You can be annoyed, impatient, and unappreciative. But you need to love them.

We are at a point of the year where Rabi Akiva’s message is particularly important. We don’t listen to music or get haircuts because Rabi Akiva’s great students passed away. These students were the cream of the crop, but their failure to show proper respect for each other made them unfit to be the next link in the chain of Torah scholarship.

It’s easy not to listen to music and not to get a haircut. The tough part is remembering why we are mourning and working on respect for each person.

I once read an article about my brother-in-law’s father. He was born in Shanghai and recently went back to visit. He related how at his birth and Bris, which was on Yom Kippur, all of the refugees celebrated. They had no food, no family and no country, but they were excited about the idea of more life and a new generation. They named him Chaim – Life.

We need to remember that everyone is a part of the world that we enjoy. We can usually think of a reason to love them, but even if we can’t – they are life. They are another Neshama and we need to spend the next six weeks remembering that every time we miss our favorite music.

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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