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Monday, December 01, 2008

The Guest That Shouldn’t Leave

"Obey any words that the host does say - unless he tells you to go away”

This counter intuitive piece of etiquette appears in the Talmud (Pesachim 86b) as well as in the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law, OC 170:5).
My wise friend, Dr. Behrooz Dayanim explained to me that if your friend is telling you to leave, something is clearly wrong. Our sages are telling us that rather than just leave we should endeavor to stick around and find a solution to our host’s problem.
Dr. Dayanim’s father was the Dayan in Shiraz, Iran. He was responsible for all of the divorces in Shiraz and her neighboring towns. Over his fifty year career many couples came to him - but not one couple actually divorced. Mola Meir Moshe Dayanim would help them work through their issues and send them away in peace.
In contrast, I once had a friend who disappeared. I tried to stay in touch by calling his cellphone every Friday to say good shabbos. One week he actually picked up the phone. He told me that he had left town because he had some personal issues in his life. He didn’t feel right living in our community any more because none of the frum people seemed to have any issues at all. (It’s true: Frum people do have more fun!) I assured him that we have our issues as well - including the very issue that he was dealing with. Sadly, we never spoke again and his cell phone number was eventually disconnected.
My friend assumed that his problems were an invitation to leave the community. Our sages tell us that there is no such thing. We need to find solutions, or in this particular case - find problems. If he had taken the time to realize that he was not as unique as he thought he was, he could have avoided disappearing and actually found some help.
Rabbi Alexander Moshe Lapidos (who eerily shows up third in the Google Search for Meir Moshe Dayanim) writes in his Divrei Emes that the host referred to in the Talmud is G-d. We need to listen to G-d, but if we hear G-d telling us to give up and leave we can be assured that we heard Him wrong. Like Mario, we need to live with the knowledge that if we come up to a brick wall we have to either break through the wall or go back and try again. The game is never over.
Finally, when we leave the house we take something with us that cannot be replaced. Yaacov had to go to Charan, but Be’er Sheva suffered. Many years later his great-great-grandson Nochum Ish Gamzu kept his shaky house standing just by being inside ("As long as I am in the house - the house will not fall” - Taanis 21a).

Don’t leave the building; you might bring down the house.


Posted on 12/01 at 03:24 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