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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Cry of the Shofar

The Talmud tells us that the pattern of shofar blowing in each congregation evolved over time. The long, trumpet-like tekiah was used by all, but the teruah took on many different forms, varying with time and geographic location. Amazingly, after several generations the result was invariably corresponded to one of three basic sound patterns. Every congregation independently arrived at either the wailing, three-part shevarim, the pleading whimper of the teruah or a combination of the two.
The Talmud reports that upon witnessing this incredible phenomenon Rabbi Avahu instituted these three basic patterns worldwide. Rabbi Hai Gaon (939-1038) explains that this ruling was not the result of compromise (in a case of halachic disagreement). Rather, it was intended to promote unity and solidarity in the global Jewish community. In addition to our “personal” shofar sounds, we include those of the entire nation as well.
Our desire is for the feelings and yearnings of every Jew to be heard. A Jew is never left to cry alone.
The story is told of a young boy who people noticed standing alone in the synagogue on Rosh Hashana. Although no one recognized him, he was quite obviously troubled. They watched as the poor child tried unsuccessfully to articulate his problems. Becoming increasingly frustrated and upset, the boy began to cry. Finally, in desperation the boy removed a whistle from his pocket and began to blow it with all his might. The congregation stood still and watched as the boy blew with all his heart and soul, releasing pent up emotions and conveying his pain with more clarity than any words could have. When he was done, the boy turned, and with a shining face and a bounce in his step left the sanctuary, mission accomplished.
We have all experienced moments of extreme emotion, whether in joy, pain, relief, fright or sorrow. At these instances our feelings are so powerful that we can do virtually nothing other than scream. Similarly, the blowing of the shofar is not a logical expression of thought, but an emotional one. It has the potential to convey prayers that are too complex and deep for words or even song.
King David wrote (Psalms 89:16) “Fortunate is the nation who knows the shofar blasts.” We are fortunate when we are in touch with our own hearts and our personal shofar blasts. We are even more fortunate when we are united enough to anticipate the needs of another.
This Rosh HaShana as we listen to the shofar being blown, let us remember that these blasts are the vehicle with which we offer up our deepest emotions, those that words cannot verbalize. And let us pray that the sounds of the shofar carry not only our feelings but the suffering and yearning of Jew everywhere whose heartfelt “shofar sounds” may be different than our own.

This article first appeared in the Debut issue of NickNacks, a publication of the Norfolk Area Community Kollel.

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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