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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Grandest Finale

I’ve often wondered whether swans actually sing a beautiful song just before they die.

As the philosopher Franz Rosenzweig left this world, he tried to leave a lasting message for his wife. As he breathed his final breaths he wrote her the following sentence: “And now it comes, the point of all points, which the L-rd has truly revealed to me in my sleep, the point of all points for which there ------“.

We will never know whether Franz Rosenzweig intended to profess his belief in G-d, his theory of everything or the importance of the Hokie-pokie. For a reason unknown to us G-d did not give him a chance to finish his sentence.

King David speaks of how every pious Jew should pray for a sense of serenity at the time that his soul departs this world. We all come to this world to communicate a lesson, and we are fortunate if we leave this world knowing that we have succeeded in our mission.

I knew a very special young man who passed away several weeks ago. Just thirty hours before his tragic death, he delivered a powerful message to his family as they gathered together for the Yom Tov meal.

It seems that after the destruction of Jerusalem, our grandfather Avraham would pace back and forth among the ruins of the Bais Hamikdosh. Hashem approached Avraham and comforted him with words of King David: “Your children are like olives”.

Olive trees lead a tortuous existence before they finally bear fruit. But when they finally do bear fruit, that fruit is both abundant and valuable. In the land of Israel alone there are olive trees in excess of 1600 years old that continue to bear fruit to this day.

Hashem was reassuring Avraham that while it was true that his children had misbehaved to the point of expulsion, this was not the end. Eventually we would get past our difficult adolescence and begin to bear valuable fruit.

The young man’s name was Shalom Benayahu (Zichrono Livracha) and he made the point that ultimate perfection can only be found in completion. It is only in the final result that we will see the true fruits of our nation as a whole and of our people as individuals.

The name Shalom Benayahu actually hints to this concept: Shalom is the Hebrew word for completion and Benayahu can refer to an edifice built for Hashem. (See my essay on this elsewhere)

Hillel once told his students that he was rushing to do a mitzvah. His students followed him and were surprised to see him taking a shower. Hillel explained with a parable:

Imagine that you had a statue of the king. The purpose of the statue is to bring honor and glory to the king. If the statue is dented, cemented and rusty, the king will not appreciate your gesture of respect. He might even be offended.

An American Flag is a sign of patriotism; a ripped, wet, unlit American flag is a sign of disgrace.

(Or as the Brisker Rebetzin once pointed out: “A shmutzeger shniptz is kein shniptz nit!”)

The point is that we were all created as monuments to Hashem. We can’t satisfy ourselves with a good deed here and an impressive mitzvah there. We need to build ourselves up as true edifices to Hashem’s greatness. We need to show the world what Man, created in the image of G-d, can really accomplish and become.

The Greeks and Tiger Woods maintained great images. They impressed the entire world with their good clean living. But when push came to crash, we found out that they weren’t so perfect after all. They were immoral, dishonest and twisted. They were vulnerable to a weak but vibrant G-dly society that exposed their hollow core.

Hashem told Avraham that he shouldn’t worry about his children. Other societies will shine and fade away. The Jewish people will ultimately grow from their struggles and produce the brightest fruit of all. We know that the olive in the Chanuka story shined beyond anybodies predictions. We continue to experience the glow of the menora as it lights up the world to this day.

I am told that when the olives finally ripen they do so in unity. Every olive on the tree ripens on the same day. In the zechus of Shlaom Benayahu, z”l, I hope that we can all grow together to reap our ultimate harvest as we become a true Binyan Shaleim – a perfect and complete monument to Hashem.

(Sources: The Merchant of Venice, Act 3 Scene 2, Menachos 53, Ramban Behaaloscha)

Link: Shalom Lives On

Posted on 12/15 at 06:20 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 senderhaber@gmail.com