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Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Mysterious Mr. Malik

Good salesman don’t have business cards. A good deal is now or never; you make the sale or you don’t. Business cards are an excuse to stall, to procrastinate and to forget.

I received this lesson from Louis the Encyclopedia Salesman as he Lassoed me with a bagel at the Fedex store (nee Kinko’s) last week.

I was making copies and generally minding my own business when Louis yelled, “Hey, Are you a Rabbi?!”. I politely complimented him on being an Observant Jew and replied that actually I was an Assistant Rabbi. “Well”, he countered, “I don’t go to shul, and if I did it definitely wouldn’t be yours because you daven in Hebrew”. He went on to explain that he learned Hebrew as a child and didn’t understand why anyone used it but it didn’t really matter because he didn’t go to shul anyway. He claimed that he was mostly Jewish to annoy his mother-in-law who wasn’t. We spent about twenty minutes discussing everything from Mumbai and Manishewitz to Mitzvos, Marketing and Mr.Malik.

As the copier spit my pages into a mess on the floor, I shocked Louis with the news that I was not acquainted with Mr. Malik. Louis patiently explained to me that Mr. Malik was the holiest and most learned Jew in Norfolk. He wore a Yarmulke and even davened every day - in Hebrew.

I walked away from the conversation intrigued by this lost Jew and very curious about the Mysterious Mr. Malik. I lost sleep racking my brains and asking around trying to find a clue to the identity of this righteous Man named Malik.

I didn’t have long to wait. Just two days later I sat down at a very well attended Bas Mitzvah and - in case I did not yet believe in G-d - there was Mr. Malik staring at me from across the table. I almost hugged him.

Once we got past the fact that Mr. Malik could not hear or see we actually had quite a nice conversation. He didn’t remember Louis the Encyclopedia Salesman but he was learned and he did daven - in Hebrew - every single day. “It’s a Mitzvah”, he explained, “and Mitzvas are good”.

My experience taught me a lesson about encounters. Mr. Malik doesn’t remember Louis, but Louis remembers and reveres Mr. Malik. Mr. Malik is arguably Louis’ strongest connection to Hashem.

Louis taught me never to miss an opportunity to inspire someone. I have tens of business cards of people I intended to get back to and get to know. It seldom happens.

Like the Frisco Kid and the Quackers, the person who approaches you in Kinko’s or Kmart is thirsty for a Jewish Moment. You probably won’t see him or her again. Teach them some Torah, recommend a book, make their neshama smile. It is Now or Never.


Posted on 12/14 at 07:16 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