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Friday, August 07, 2009

Upsherin: The Rest of the Story

My son Moshe just turned three. If he were a tree he would be entering the year of ‘Neta Ravai’ and experiencing his first harvest. He would also be a lot quieter. We gave him his first haircut shortly after his third birthday, and I shared some remarks on Neta Revai.

Neta Revai is the name given to the fruits of a tree’s fourth year, the only privately owned holiness detailed in the Torah. Neta Revaii is ours to eat or share but it must be enjoyed in the city of Yerushalayim. The fruits of Neta Revai can be redeemed but only if the replacement fruits will be eaten in Yerushalayim.

Let’s say that someone transferred his Neta Revai to fruits that could not possibly make the journey to Yerushalayim. If he knows for a fact that the fruits will be rotten and inedible by the time he gets to Yerushalayim, can he still use them as Neta Revai?

The Rambam’s surprising ruling is - yes! A person may designate almost expired food as Neta Revai even though it is physically impossible to bring it to (and eat it in) Yerushalayim! Many have wondered at the Rambam’s reasoning and Reb Chaim Kanievsky explains it in a very creative way. In his Derech Emunah, Reb Chaim cites a Sifre and proves that although it is impossible for the fruits to make it to Yerushalayim, It is entirely possible that Yerushalayim will expand to include the fruits.

Zachariah (9:1) tells us that at the end of days there will be no unrest in Yerushalayim. She will expand to the East and to the West and her rest-filled borders will spread out as far as Damascus. According to the Medrash, a person could go to sleep in Syria and wake up to find that his home has been divinely annexed and that he is living within the restful borders of Yerushalayim.

Reb Chaim uses the Medrash to legalize overripe Neta Revai in Syria, but there is another message here as well:

Hashem calls Yerushalayim His city of Rest and we live to rest. Our week’s build up to a day of rest and our ultimate reward will come with our eternal rest, be it in heaven or here on earth with the coming of Moshiach.

In our non-stop pursuit of rest we often find ourselves engaged in non-stop motion. If rest requires the absence of motion, then our lives are an exercise in counterproductivity. How can we possibly achieve our goal of rest if we are constantly involed in propeling ourselves forward?

It seems that, contrary to Newton, an object in motion will become an object at rest. Yaakov said of his son Yissochar: “And he saw that rest was good ... so he bent his shoulder to bear” [Breishis 49:15]. The Torah’s definition of rest includes some pretty hard work. Like a soldier preparing for battle, the only way to stay cool and calm when it counts is to prepare thoroughly, train well and work hard beforehand. True rest comes only after working through years of unrest.

On all three of our National missions to rebuild Yerushalayim we contended with some serious unrest. Hashem challenges us, tests us, and sometimes pushed us to our limits. He just won’t let us stop moving in our perpetual quest for rest. But when push comes to shove and we reach the end of the road, the rest can come as the result an entity outside of ourselves. It will come at us when we least expect it. Like the expanding borders of Yerushalayim, Hashem’s bracha of Menucha will radiate powerfully and envelope us even as as we continue to journey toward Him.

Neta Revai begins with the fourth fruit bearing year of a tree’s existence and the first harvest it’s fruits; Education in Mitzvos begins with the fourth year of a child’s life and (in some circles) his first haircut. In both instances we are entrusted with something holy and given a monumental task. The laws of Neta Revai teach us not to give up. Our goals seem impossibly hard to reach, but while we are engrossed in the ‘game’ Hashem is quietly moving the goal closer and closer to our side of the field.

Before we know it we may wake up to find that our goals have been reached, that Moshiach has finally come and that we are all proud residents of a restful, resplendent and redefined Yerushalayim.

May we have only Nachas and true Menuchas Hanefesh from all of our children.


Posted on 08/07 at 03:41 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