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Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Days of Sarah

The Medrash tells us that Rebbe Akiva was once sitting with his students when he noticed that they were falling asleep. He decided to wake them by changing the subject. “Why is it”, he asked, “that Queen Esther merited ruling over 127 countries?”

He went on to explain that this was in the merit of Sarah. Sarah had lived for 127 years and her granddaughter ruled over 127 countries.

The Torah tells us that Sarah’s life was full. All of her years were equal in goodness. She lived each day to its utmost and fulfilled her role in this world on each day that was given to her.

The Vilna Gaon once said that when we come to heaven our days come to heaven with us. Each day testifies about how we spent it and whether we used it well. Each day that Hashem gives us is a gift to allow to become better people and to carry out our unique role in this world.

In the Shaar Hatzion on the laws of Yom Kippur the Chofetz Chaim departs from a discussion of halacha to make a point in mussar:

Some people deal with daily struggles but give up. They figure that if they don’t do what they need to do they will just get punished or perhaps die. The Chofetz Chaim explains that this never works. If we come up to heaven without fixing what we need to fix – and it is different for every person – we will be sent right back down. Even in this world, Hashem gives us each day as a gift and another chance to become better.

Several months ago I was sitting in Pepe’s when a stranger walked in. He clearly hadn’t intended to enter a Kosher Pizza shop and he spent a few minutes talking. It became clear from the conversation that he had once kept kosher but did not keep kosher any longer. He left the store and went to eat lunch somewhere else. I was shocked, besides for missing out on some really good pizza, the man lost a great opportunity. Here he was, struggling with kashrus, and G-d gave him another chance. He was out of town on a business trip with a partner and of all stores he walked into a kosher one. How much more of a sign do you need?

Hashem gives us new chances every day. Sarah took advantage of every one of her days. They were all equal in goodness.

Esther did the same. She was given a chance to save the Jewish people, but she could have just retreated to her royal suite and said nothing. Someone else would have saved the Jews.

Every day is an opportunity. We can use it to grow or to do teshuva, but we cannot allow it to go to waste. This was Rabi Akiva’s lesson to his sleeping students. It should be a lesson to us as well.

Posted on 10/24 at 11:47 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