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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Some Thoughts During Kedusha

This morning, as my cousin led the congregation in Kedusha, I couldn’t help but think of our great-grandfather Yehoshua Binyamin Yudin, Zichrono l’vracha.

My great-grandfather passed away while his children were still very young. Two years later, exactly eighty years ago today, my widowed great-grandmother returned to the cemetery to bury her son Avigdor.

I am sure that it was a very dark and bleak day for my great-grandmother.  Surrounded as they were by assimilation, poverty, and sorrow, there was no way that anyone could have foreseen the beautiful generations of pious Jews that would come forth from the surviving children.

At lunch, I spoke in honor of the Bar Mitzvah of Michael and Isaac (“Mike & Ike”) Brooke, fourth generation Norfolkians. I shared with them the sentiment of most Bar Mitzvah boys who believe that life will be an upwardly mobile adventure toward uninterrupted success and holiness.

I told them that, unfortunately, this simply will not be the case. In Ezekiel’s vision, when he saw the Merkava, he beheld that the angels were dashing back and forth. Rashi explains that the angels run eagerly toward G-d’s presence, only to be thrown back because the holiness is too awesome for them to handle. The angels approach G-d again and again but each time they recoil in awe.

The Reishis Chochma explains that this is the reason behind the custom that we have to rise on our toes as we say “Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh”. We are mimicking the angels who repeatedly approach and recede from Hashem’s glory as they cry out “ Kadosh”.

How do the angels do it? How can they deal with the constant cycle of growths and setbacks without becoming weary and giving up?

I believe that the answer to this question also lies in Kedusha. The prophet Isaiah observed that before approaching G-d, the angels call out to one another. They cooperate and work together to praise G-d. Rashi explains that if they angels were not unified, they would not be able to rise toward G-d’s presence for even a fleeting moment.

Even an angel experiences setbacks, and even an angel cannot rise up from those setbacks on his own. Humans experience growths and setbacks, but by working together we can rise up to grow another day.

One of the best pieces of advice that I ever got was before I left home for Yeshiva. I was leaving Australia for the United States and I was prepared for a new, perfect life in which I would never do anything wrong. My rebbe at the time (R’ Kaddish Rubinfeld) reminded me of one inevitable fact: my Yetzer Hora would be joining me on the trip to America. He recommended that I find myself some good friends, because who we are is largely a result of the friends that we have and the people that surround us.

I reminded the Brooke Brothers that, while being a twin is challenging, they had the constant advantage of a permanent good friend. By working together they would be able to constantly grow to overcome challenges and to rise higher and higher in holiness.

Getting back to my great-grandmother, Henna Rivka Yudin, I wish I could go back in time to comfort her and her children as they sat shiva for their son and siblings. I wish I could show them the dozens of frum families that they would produce (three branches of whom live right here in Norfolk!) and the Torah that would be studied and taught by their descendants. The Yudin clan experienced an irrevocably tragic setback with the death of my great-uncle, but that shouldn’t (and didn’t) stop them from continuing to raise generations of Jews that would cherish, preserve, and respect the Torah that they sacrificed so much to learn and keep.

When Reb Michoel Ber Weissmandel emerged from the holocaust, he had lost his wife and five children. He remarried, and he and his wife Leah bore five more children. They named each of their American-born sons after one of the sons who had perished in the war. At the Bris of the fifth (or actually tenth) child Rabbi Weissmandel tearfully referenced the first words of Kedusha: Nekadeish es Shimcha ba’olam… We will sanctify G-d’s name in this world, just as His name is being sanctified in the upper worlds.

By saying and spreading Kedusha here on earth, we have the ability to emulate, generate and recreate the holiness cherished and desired by those who are in heaven.

We need to work together to emulate the angels as they eagerly rise up again and again striving toward higher and higher goals. We may experience setbacks now, but if we hold out to the end we will witness nachas, fulfillment, and a sense of holiness that never fades away.

Posted on 03/14 at 08:20 AM • 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