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Friday, May 31, 2013

The First Chareidi

About five hundred years ago Rav Elazar Ezkari of Tzfas wrote the “Sefer Chareidim”. Not directly related to the “Chareidim” of today, Rav Ezkari’s objective was to catalog the obligations of a Jew and organize them according to the various limbs. The Chareidim was a colleague of Rav Yosef Karo, the Arizal, the Alshich and the other great luminaries of Tzfas. He is quoted often by the Mishna Bereurah and other classic halachic works.

In the section of Mitzvos relating to the heart, Rav Ezkari devotes chapter thirty-four to the mitzvah of loving Hashem. He points out that the best way to express love for Hashem is with songs of love. He goes on to record some of the songs that he and his colleagues would sing to express their love to Hashem.

One of those songs is the Yedid Nefesh, which Rav Ezkari himself composed. It is a Kabbalistic song of the yearning and desire of the soul to come closer to G-d.

In the second stanza Rav Ezkari speaks of how the soul is sick with love for HaShem. He begs, “Ana! Refah na lah!” – “Please! Cure her!” – using the words that Moshe used in praying for his afflicted sister.

This seems odd. How does Moshe’s prayer for Miriam’s leprosy relate to our feeling of love toward G-d?

I think that answer lies in the reason for Miriam’s leprosy. When Miriam was young she saw in a prophetic vision that it was not proper for her parents to separate from one another. As a result of her prophecy Moshe was born and the Jews were ultimately redeemed. When she spoke ill of Moshe, Miriam was merely repeating the same sentiment: Moshe should not separate from his wife Tziporah.

Miriam was right in Egypt because she had the benefit of prophecy.  When Moshe prayed for his sister, he went straight to the root of the issue. “Please cure my sister! Please restore her sense of prophecy so that she will not make this mistake again!”

In Yedid Nefesh, Rav Ezkari has all of us praying for the most fundamental cure. We want to reconnect with Hashem. We want to become prophets.

And until we do, we have no right to judge, criticize, or speak ill of one another.

(Based in part on ideas from Rabbi Avie Gold and Rabbi Aryeh Leib Heyman)

Posted on 05/31 at 03:46 AM • 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