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Friday, March 14, 2014

What You Don’t Know Won’t Hurt You

Knowledge is a dangerous thing, especially when it is biblical. To know something biblically is to become intimately and personally familiar with it in a way that we cannot separate ourselves from our knowledge.

We grow up knowing that everything G-d does is for the best, that G-d has a plan and that there is justice in this world. G-d gives us glimpses into His plan and we love to tell those stories. The plane that we didn’t make, the job we didn’t take, and the deal that fell through. Those are our “Baruch Mordechai” moments. They are the moments when we thank G-d that there are people like Mordechai and Ester in this world to inspire us and to make sure that every story has a happy ending.

But that isn’t all we know. We know suffering. We know pain. We know hypocrisy and death and illness. We know sadness in ways that make it hard to remember Hashem’s plan and the confidence that it should inspire. Those are our “Arur Haman” moments. They are the moments when we become aware of a Haman, of an Achmedenijad, of illness and suffering and of righteous people dealing with pain.

Those cynicism laced moments of “Arur Haman” do not come from a bad place. They come from intelligence and experience. Our knowledge of evil gets in the way of our acknowledgment that all that G-d does is good.

We are, after all, intelligent people.

We celebrate the Purim story, but was it really that great? Genocide was legalized. The king and his Prime Minister wanted to kill us and the army and police force were making plans. Sure it ended well, but was it a happy story?

There will be people mourning this Purim. There will be people who are sick and people who need to accept those charitable gifts we so generously give. There is plenty of despair to go around. We know.

And for one day a year we are told to forget what we know. We are encouraged to suspend our intimate knowledge of the evil and sorrow that surrounds us and to be drunk with the thought that life is good and G-d is great.

For one day a year our intelligent and experienced and empathetic nation is enjoined to get to a point at which we no longer “know” the difference between “Arur Haman” and “Baruch Mordechai”. We forget everything we know and rejoice in G-d.

Sometimes too much knowledge is a bad thing. This Purim we need to forget some of our knowledge and allow ourselves to get utterly lost in the bliss of G-d’s grand plan.

(Based on Biur Hagra, Orach Chaim 695:3. See also Sifsei Chaim, Vol. II p.233 and Afikei Mayim, ch. 8)

Posted on 03/14 at 12:09 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