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Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Making of a Gadol

I am very proud of my family. I had this question about worms in fish and my siblings responded with reams of relevant Torah knowledge. It is always refreshing to argue with well-informed individuals.

I’ve also been re-reading “All for the Boss” by Ruchama Shain. I first read All For The Boss when I was ten years old and over the past twenty years I have been privileged to come in contact with almost every family chronicled in the book.

One of the most annoying parts of Rabbi Herman’s biography is that he is unemulateable. His actions worked for his time, but anybody who tries to copy him is crazy. Try going down to Coney Island with Sandwich boards and you’ll see what I mean. As a matter of fact, if I would ship a thirteen-year-old child to New Haven without parental consent or barge into the mayor’s office (as he did), I would probably end up in court.

I believe that the secret of R’ Yaacov Yosef’s piety and success as it could be applied to our generation is Limud Torah.

Rabbi Herman gave seven or eight Torah classes a day. He never stopped learning, even as he maintained a business and opened his home to the masses. His Torah learning was the invisible tool that made him popular with everyone from the greatest of the European sages to most coarse and unholy people in New York. When Rabbi Herman moved to Yerushalayim he was immediately accepted as a popular lecturer for the erudite community there.

More importantly, Rabbi Herman’s Torah kept him grounded. His decisions were Torah decisions, his battles were battles for Torah, and his words of rebuke were sincere. There was no fluff or self-interest in the Herman household.

When we see Torah leaders, they are often busy and important people with lines of people waiting to see them. Nobody is born that way. We need to see great people against the backdrop of the Torah they have learned.

Another great insight in All for the Boss is the frank biography of our leaders. Many of the stories about Cod Liver Oil and Podlikes are silly, but they give us a taste of the Way it Was. We can understand Torah leaders better if we have an idea of what they have experienced and accomplished in their lives.

I remember when I left Mir Yeshiva in Yerushalayim to avoid getting drafted into the IDF. I was crestfallen because I was learning well and didn’t want to go back to America.

I went to see Reb Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg, Shlita. The Rosh Yeshiva listened to my story, gave me some advice, gave me a bracha and sent me on my way. I knew I would take his advice, but there was no comfort in it because I felt like there was simply no way for him to identify with how it felt for me to terminate my studies in Mir and return to the United States.

On my way downstairs, I noticed the “Shain” apartment and decided to pay Rebetzin Shain a surprise visit. I had always wanted to meet her and I was sure that she would enjoy receiving regards from my parents. Besides, I needed someone to talk to. She welcomed me into her house and I explained my situation. Her reaction shocked me.

“You know”, she said, “My brother-in-law Chaim (aka Reb Sheinberg) left Mir (in Poland) because the Polish army was about to draft him. He was an American, but he had had been born in Poland. They told him that he could either return to the USA immediately or remain in Poland, away from his family, until he completed his army duty”.

It turned out that Reb Sheinberg had known what I was talking about all along. He hadn’t spoken more than ten words to me, and he certainly hadn’t shared any of his feelings, but he had known exactly what was going on in my mind.

(The Israeli army eventually waived my draft for several months after receiving documentation that my learning would be negatively impacted. Needless to say, that would not have happened in the Polish Armed Forces).

I always tell my students that our goal is not to see one of thirty-six hidden tzadikim, but to be one of the thirty-six hidden tzadikim. We are the product of the Torah that we have learned and the experiences that Hashem sends our way. By listening and growing, we can become shining lights in a dark and confusing world.

Posted on 05/13 at 05:16 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