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Friday, August 17, 2018

The Decapitated Calf

The Torah tells us (21-1) about a dead man who was found outside the city. The elders of the city and the kohanim need to go out to a valley and slaughter a calf and promise that they didn’t kill the man.

It seems a little bit unfair. Obviously, the village elders didn’t kill him. But the Sifri explains that the elders are saying that they saw to it that he left town with enough bread and water to keep him alive.’ And even so, they still need to beg for forgiveness.

But is that the elder’s responsibility for not giving him food? And why do they need to ask forgiveness when they did give food? Rav Yaacov Naiman, based on the Alter of Kelm explains that the issue here is emotional. By giving someone food, we are making sure that they feel important. That would have caused him to be more careful to avoid the type of danger that got them killed.

This isn’t about games. It isn’t about telling someone that he or she is important. This is about actually thinking that someone is important. And that is the responsibility of the elders. If they had respected every person to the point where all guests were naturally escorted out and cared for, then none of this tragedy would have happened.

Rav Leib Chasman makes a frightening point. The entire mitzvah here is only when we don’t know who the murdered is. If we do know, we don’t need to remind ourselves to care about people.

Shouldn’t it be the opposite?! One of us is a murderer. That should give us pause.

Rav Chasman writes that is exactly the point. Of course if one of us murdered, G-d forbid, we would all be rethinking our educational system and our way of life. We would all be making changes. But when there are no names attached – a stranger died, nobody knows who did it. It is so easy to shrug things off. That is where we need to go out of the city and conduct a whole ceremony to remind ourselves that this is our problem.

That is what we all need to do right now. Find something that totally isn’t our problem, and feel bad about it. Don’t make a person feel important. Teach yourself that the person truly is important.

Posted on 08/17 at 05:19 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 senderhaber@gmail.com