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Friday, October 05, 2012

Step Outside

After going the various steps of Teshuva, the Rambam explains the ways of a Baal Teshuva. He writes that a Baal Teshuva should be involved in constant prayer, Tzedaka and ensuring that past Aveiros will not be repeated. A Baal Teshuva should also change his or her name as if to say ‘I am a different person’. And a Baal Teshuva should consider galus, because Galus is conducive to humility.

Based on this idea, the Yalkut Shimoni writes that the reason why Succos is in Tishrei and not after Pesach is because it is possible that our decree after Yom Kippur was to be exiled. By leaving our homes to enter our Sukkah’s it as we were exiled to Babylon. 

On the surface this makes a lot of sense, after all we are leaving our homes to be in a wooden shack. Even the most fancy Sukka is prey to the elements because there is no roof, yet the Sukka remains intact and dry only by the grace of G-d.

However, upon further thought, this is strange. It is a Mitzvah to decorate the Sukkah. It is forbidden to bring earthenware pots and pans into the Sukkah because it does not look nice. If the idea here is Galus, One would imagine that exile would mandate that we have Spartan lodgings without all of the creature comforts. Yet the Gemara tells us time and time again, teishvu k’ein Taduru, treat it as you would your home.

Reb Sheinberg takes very practical approach to answer this question. He explains that the idea is to leave our “dwellings of permanence” and work with something different, something new. Sukkos is a time to begin anew and assess everything that we do. Of course, Just rethinking whether we really like our dining room set or insulation may not change our lives, but once we get into the habit of leaving our Diras Keva, our “state of permanence”, we will have a tool to use for life.

Perhaps we can take this idea one step further: although our main purpose in this world is to prepare for the next world, we are also capable of bringing holiness into the world we live in. 

On Succos we are given a great opportunity. The Mitzvah of sukkah does not apply to just eating and drinking; everything we do should be done in the Sukkah. Everything we do becomes a Mitzvah. That is why, unlike Pesach, we make a leisheiv Besucca daily. According to many, even just walking into the Sukkah is a mitzvah and worthy of a bracha. This is our training ground for incorporating Hashem in our lives for the remainder of the year and forever.

Reb Ahron Kotler writes that we spend Rosh Hashana and the ten days following declaring G-d’s kingship in the world and the great kindness and benevolence that he affords us. After Neilah we are excited and ready to rejoice in the presence of G-d. We want all of our actions to be reflective of this feeling of closeness. We build ourselves a Sukka where we are constantly doing Mitzvos and coming as close as we can to the bliss of G-dliness. We are then able to stretch that holiness throughout the year by appraising every one of our actions and effectively building a sukkah for ourselves in which everything we do is the will of G-d.

Until Shemini Atzeres we quote Dovid Hamelech’s praise for Hashem: “for you hide me in your Sukkah and protect me in its shade”. May we be Zoche to experience the Simcha and closeness to Hashem that is inherent in the Sukkah.

Posted on 10/05 at 02:34 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