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Monday, October 13, 2008

Sukkos: Rosh Hashana for Aveiros

The Medrash writes that Sukkos is the Rosh Hashana for Aveiros, the New Year for Sins. The freshness and purity of Yom Kippur remain untainted in the days leading up to Sukkos. We are too busy preparing for the holiday to do anything wrong. It is only on the first day of Sukkos that we can begin to sin.

This Medrash supports a core precept of Chassidus that the preparation for the mitzvah is more important than the mitzvah itself. Building a sukka, choosing a Lulav, and cooking meals are only preparations for the holiday, yet they effectively shield us from sin. On Sukkos itself, when we are sitting in our sukkos, shaking our Lulavim and eating those meals we find ourselves beginning to sin.

The Chassidim extended this idea to exalt the preparations made for prayer, Bris Milah, and all Mitzvos.

The so called Misnagdim (opponents of Chassidus) were against this understanding of the Medrash. The Nefesh Hachaim considered it all but blasphemous to suggest that choosing a lulav and preparing for prayer could be more important than shaking a lulav and prayer itself. While preparing for a Mitzvah we are engrossed in an incomplete mitzvah. It is only when we see a mitzvah through to its’ completion that we can realize its’ true benefits.

We can spend hours and hours preparing for a Mitzvah, but the light that emanates from the Mitzva will not begin to shine until the Mitzvah is complete.

It is kind of like school: A person can spend twenty years of his life in a school environment. During that time period he is immersed in knowledge. His life is based on an academic schedule and he lives and breathes his studies. He exists in a framework of discipline and evaluation that encourages him to grow. When he finally graduates he leaves that intense and nurturing environment. He loses the benefits of the campus - but he is now a graduate. He can sleep all day and never open another textbook, but if someone needs a doctor or a lawyer or a toothpaste tester he is qualified and licensed to help.

The same is true of Mitzvos. While preparing for a mitzvah, we think of nothing but that mitzvah. Hashem protects and shelters us as we put effort into the mitzvah. But the real benfit is in the completion. When we complete a mitzvah, we often forget about it - but we are different people because of it. A completed mitzvah elevates us in a very real and permanent way. It envelopes us with holiness and brings us closer to Hashem. Upon completion, a Mitzvah leaves our physical lives but becomes a part of our neshamos.

In the days leading up to Sukkos we are physically busy with mitzvos but we have not yet upgraded our souls. When Sukkos finally comes, our mitzvos transform us into elevated and better human beings.

As the sukka forces us to reinvent our physical environment, the calm of Yom Tov challenges us to make full use of our new spiritual reality. Sukkos is our first chance to be tested. It is the Rosh Hashana for sin.

May we merit to see our mitzvos change who we are and penetrate to the depths of our souls.

Sources: Medrash Rabbah, Emor 30:7; Yayna Shel Torah, p. 6; Ruach Chaim, preface.

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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 senderhaber@gmail.com