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Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Small Stuff

The only person in the area who was willing to take apart my hard drive works out of a basement in Portsmouth. He turned out to be a really nice Lebanese fellow who was just dying to spend five hours on my computers, adding hardware, running software, and charging me a fraction of the going rate.

Apparently, I owe a debt of gratitude to Saul Goldstein. Saul immigrated to Miami from Europe about the same time that my new friend’s grandfather came over from Lebanon. They started a business together and remained partners for forty two years. “When grandma died, grandpa was real sad”, I was told, “but when Saul Goldstein died, it was the end of the world for grandpa. He only lasted a few weeks after that”.

Saul Goldstein was probably just another poor European immigrant, but he made a strong impression on that kind Lebanese family. When the Six Day War broke out, they didn’t think of tanks – they thought of Saul Goldstein. Decades later, when my friend eats with wayward Jews he tells them not to order ham – because Saul Goldstein wouldn’t. And when I entered his basement in Portsmouth, VA, I was given special attention – because that is what Saul Goldstein would have done.

True greatness is not about big headlines; it is about an impression that lasts for forty years.

Too often, we judge ourselves and others by the wrong standards. Everyone wants to change the world; but only a select few are available to help Mom with the dishes. We are addicted to momentary honor and handicapped by our need for glory.

Rav Gustman was one of the leading Talmidei Chachamim of the last generation. One day an angry young man entered his Yeshiva and slapped him across the face. The students were taken aback, but Rav Gustman reacted by telling two stories:

“When I was twenty years old”, he said, “I was chosen to serve with two senior scholars on Rav Chaim Ozer’s Rabbinic Court in Vilna. One day I arrived late at a session and the entire crowd, along with the greatest scholars of Vilna, rose in my honor. ”

“Several years later” he continued, “The Nazis held my family at gunpoint. They spat at me and yelled at me and shamed me before killing my wife and children before my eyes.”

“I experienced the pinnacle of honor and the depth of scorn. Since then, I am been incapable of feeling either honor or humiliation.”

Truly effective people focus on what everyone else calls “small stuff”.

We live in a world where the most thoughtful man can be vilified because he allowed a run and the lowest of the low becomes a hero for pitching a shutout inning. We can name the inventor of the atom bomb but we have no idea who came up with the ballpoint pen. We tell everybody where we graduated from but seldom thank the person who taught us to tie our shoes.

P.J. O’Rourke once wrote: A very quiet and tasteful way to be famous is to have a famous relative. Then you can not only be nothing, you can do nothing too.

We need more Saul Goldsteins.

Posted on 11/12 at 07:10 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