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Monday, March 23, 2009

The Tear of a Peer

Rabbi Shalom Shwadron used to tell the story about a group of children who were playing at a certain family’s home. One of the children suddenly incurred a serious accident, and had to be taken to hospital. The hostess had the unenviable task of breaking the news to the child’s mother, and decided to do it gradually. When the child’s mother came to the house, the hostess told her that one of the children had an accident. “That’s nothing,” she said, “children are always having accidents!” The hostess then said that it was a serious accident, and the child had to be taken to hospital. “Nu,” the mother replied, “we must have faith in G-d. He will help the child.” “But”, the hostess finally said, “it was your Yossele!” And the mother fainted.

As much as we can and should appreciate those who work for peace and an end to dissension in the Jewish community, it may some times be the case that their aloof attitude implies that the issue at hand doesn’t really affect them—it isn’t really THEIR issue, it isn’t really their Yossele! Link

We are supposed to feel the pain of others. And we do. But is seems to me that there are times when we should rise above that pain and look at the problem from the perspective of an outsider. If we make the problem our own, we will only raise the level of hysteria; if we divorce ourselves from the problem, we can help with our thoughtfulness and perspective.

I once told my rebbe that I was going through a mid-life crisis. It was the most difficult period of my life and I was very distressed.  “Sender”, he chuckled, “I think it’s adolescence”. I needed someone to laugh at me then, and he did.

Can an intimate conversation take place in a crowded room on YouTube? I’m not sure.

This week my brother sent me a meeting of two aging giants in our generation. Rav Ovadia Yosef was suffering from back pain and could not learn properly. He was crying and he was distressed. He had thousands of people to cry for him, to daven for him, perhaps even to commiserate with him. That wasn’t enough. He needed someone to point a finger at him and say “Don’t Cry!” He needed someone to laugh and say that everything would be OK, that he was getting too upset. There is a time to cry for a friend in pain, but sometimes we need to laugh at them.

Rav Sheinberg was moved to tears by Rav Ovadia’s cries, you can see that later in the conversation, but he didn’t cry for Rav Ovadia – He laughed.

Reb Yochanan would help many great people in their illnesss, but he could not help himself. He needed Reb Chanina to lift him up (Brachos 5b). May all of our leaders merit long and healthy lives.


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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