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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Sunshine and Our National Bar Mitzvah

Yesterday, my good friend and student Yaakov Wilson celebrated his Bar Mitzvah. Yaakov is one of the most remarkable people I know and together we composed a timely Bar Mitzvah speech. I am posing it here - sans merci* - for your edification. (Please note that all references to solar events are based on halachic calculations. See the Chazon Ish OC 131:4 and other quality literature for full treatment of this issue.)

(Loud & Slow)

This is not just my Bar Mitzvah; it is the Bar Mitzvah of the Jewish people. On this date, about three thousand years ago Hashem looked at our forefathers in Egypt and decided that it was time for us to grow up. He taught us to come together as a nation and He gave us the responsibility of our first National Mitzvah – The Korban Pesach or the Paschal Lamb.

This month, the month of our redemption from Egypt is called Nissan. The name Nissan comes from the word Nitzan which means to sprout or to blossom. In this month the trees begin to blossom and we began to blossom and grow-up as a nation. Just as the Jewish people needed to mature as a nation, each and every young Jewish male at his Bar Mitzvah is expected to mature into a responsible adult. I hope that I can follow in the footsteps of my parents and teachers as I join this “grown-up” element of the Jewish People.

The word Nitzan can also refer to the Netz Hachama – the rising of the sun. The sun rose for the very first time on Wednesday, the fourth day of creation. This Wednesday we will be witnessing the sunrise just as it appeared on that very first Wednesday of creation. In the Jewish calendar this occurs only once every twenty-eight years. The last time that the vernal equinox occurred on a Wednesday was in 1981; the next occurrence will not take place until 2037, when I am thirty-one years old and hopefully married with children, a job and a really late bed time. On the morning of the Vernal equinox Jews around the world will make a special blessing, thanking Hashem for creating the sun. I have learned from my many devoted teachers that without the sun there would be no life on this planet: plants would not grow, animals would go hungry and the ecosystem would crash.

Just having my Bar Mitzvah on the eve of this once in twenty eight year occurrence would be special enough. But this year is even more special because this celebration of the rebirth of the sun takes place just as we begin to celebrate Pesach and the birth of the Jewish nation.

This convergence of the renewal of the sun’s creation (the vernal equinox) and the maturing of the Jewish people (Pesach) is particularly rare. It last occurred in 1925 and the time before that was way back in 1309 (in medieval times). We have over 500 years to wait until 2541 – the next time that a Wednesday Vernal Equinox occurs on the day before Pesach.

I’ve spent some time thinking about the creation of the sun, its reliability, regularity and consistency. We are taught that when the sun and moon were first created they were equal in size and importance. The moon complained: How can two kings rule at the same time. The sun listened to the moon’s complaint but did not say a word. Hashem rewarded the Sun for being satisfied with the job it had been given and made it superior to the moon. As we know the light of the moon is now nothing but a reflection of the sun.

I think that the secret to the sun’s success is his happiness with what he is. He was happy with his task and never stopped doing his duty (except for a few short hours in the days of Yehoshua).

The Jewish people need to learn from the sun. We need to fulfill our purpose on this earth with out feeling a need to look over at the next person to see what they are doing.

This Shabbos is called Shabbos Hagadol, the big Shabbos. In Hebrew, the word Gadol means big, but it also refers to a boy who has reached the age of Bar mitzvah. On my personal Shabbos Hagadol I embark on my life as an adult and continue to do all that you have helped me begin. Like the sun, I hope that I can remain dedicated and focused as I fulfill my own specific role in this world.

Thank you, A good Shabbos and a Happy and Healthy Pesach.

(*Sans Merci - omitting the thank you’s)


Posted on 04/05 at 04:10 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