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Humility vs. Low Self-Concept

What could possibly be wrong about toning down one’s ego or sense of self? In fact humility is one of the character traits about which Maimonides recommends to lean slightly off the middle course in direction of even more humility.

Yet, the Baal Shemtov states that there is a type of humility that is counter-productive and even destructive. He explains that it is possible for a person to see themselves as unworthy of accomplishing anything good. The result? The person does not accomplish anything good. Furthermore, they use their “unworthiness” as a license to an unrestricted lifestyle of “anything goes” because, “I am worthless anyway.”

Where’s the disconnect? Humility is defined as a person not being arrogant or boastful about what they can or have accomplished, because they recognize their talents and abilities as gifts from G-d. In fact, they think, had someone else been similarly gifted from above, they may have achieved much more. So while the individual acknowledges their capabilities, those capabilities do not cause them arrogance. This is the trait that Maimonides lauds and cautions us to pursue even to a slight extreme.

The Baal Shemtov, on the other hand, is speaking of someone with a low self-concept. Someone who lacks the self-confidence to aspire toward achievement and greatness. The trouble is, that when we do a self-examination of character, we cannot always separate the two because they both feel like humility. This is what the Baal Shemtov is warning about, do not confuse humility with a low self-concept. Do not use “humility” as an excuse not to stay in control of your actions and character. We must soar with accomplishment while remaining aware that those successes should not give us an ego boost.

This balance of character is the mark of a refined, yet accomplished person, who can contribute much to G-ds plan for our world.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

For the Love of G-d

This week we begin reading the second of the five books of the Torah, Shemot – Exodus. Psalms 119:130 states: “The beginning of Your words illuminates.” Rashi comments that this means the beginning of Your (G-d’s) words in the Ten Commandments, (I am the L-rd your G-d) illuminates the hearts of the people of Israel. The Rebbe suggests, based on a Midrash, that it would also be possible to apply this to the “beginning of Your words” in each of the five books of the Torah. Indeed, Rashi, in his commentary to the opening verse of each of the five books, directs the meaning of the verse to the love the G-d has for the Jewish people.

So let’s take a moment and examine each one.

Genesis begins with the story of creation. Rashi comments, “Now for what reason did He commence with “In the beginning (instead of the Mitzvahs and the narrative of the Exodus)?” Because of [the verse] “The strength of His works He related to His people, to give them the inheritance of the nations” (Ps. 111:6). For if the nations of the world should say to Israel, “You are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations,” they will reply, "The entire earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it and gave it to whomever He deemed proper when He wished, He gave it to them, and when He wished, He took it from them and gave it to us.”

Exodus begins by recounting the names of the twelve tribes who came to Egypt. Rashi comments, “Although [G-d] counted them in their lifetime by their names, He counted them again after their death, to let us know how precious they are [to Him].”

Leviticus begins by G-d calling to Moses to instruct him about the offerings in the Sanctuary. Rashi comments, “Every [time G-d communicated with Moses,] it was always preceded by [G-d] calling [to Moses by name], an expression of affection.”

Numbers begins with the census of the Israelites in the Sinai desert. Rashi comments, “Because they were dear to Him, He counted them often.”

Deuteronomy begins with the rebuke of Israelites by Moses. Rashi comments, “Since these are words of rebuke and he [Moses] enumerates here all the places where they angered the Omnipresent, therefore it makes no explicit mention of the incidents [in which they transgressed], but rather merely alludes to them, out of respect for Israel.”

So now we have a deeper appreciation for the meaning of “The beginning of Your words illuminates.” Each beginning illuminates the hearts of the Jewish people by shining a light on the profound love and care that Hashem has for His people. Even in a “negative” context, Hashem is careful to preserve the honor of His people and the love He has for them.

Were it only that we could emulate our Creator by speaking lovingly and respectfully about each other, thereby bringing out only the best of each and every one of us.

This might be a good segue to a reminder about the upcoming JLI course entitled Judaism’s Gifts to the World. At Chabad Uptown, the class will be offered on six Wednesdays starting January 29. For more information and to register, see www.chabadneworleans.com/jli. The first class will be free and open to the public at 7:15 pm on Wednesday, January 29. For more info see www.facebook.com/events/776308576203260. Dinner will be served. Please share this with anyone who may be interested.

At Chabad Metairie, the course will be offered on six Tuesdays starting January 21 (with a week off for Mardi Gras). For more information and to register, see www.jewishlouisiana.com/jli. The first class will be free and open to the public at 7:15 pm on Wednesday, January 29. For more info see www.facebook.com/events/603993793697142. As above, Dinner will be served. Please share this with anyone who may be interested.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Is There Too Much Jewish Influence?

There has been some reaction to the recent uptick of attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions, that seeks to highlight some kind of insidious “Jewish influence” and the repercussions which that engenders. This reaction has some blatantly anti-Semitic sentiments. It also consists of the ridiculous attempt to blame the individual victims for the perceived grievances of the group with whom they affiliate.

At this week's “No Hate, No Fear” solidarity march with the Jewish community in NY, New York Times columnist Barri Weiss gave an impassioned speech about what makes her proud to be Jewish. It is a worthy read (or watch). This really brought the idea of Jewish pride to the forefront of people’s consciousness.

What are we proud of as Jews? We find the use of monikers such as “the chosen people.” What were we chosen for? What responsibility does that confer upon us? What kind of Jewish influence has there been in a positive sense in our society?

By Divine Providence, long before this latest rash of anti-Semetic incidents, the Jewish Learning Institute prepared the course for winter 2020 entitled, “Judaism’s Gifts to the World.” This course should be our response to accusations of Jewish influence and anti-Semitism. It deals with six fundamental values that Judaism, via the Torah, introduced to civilization. They include, The Gift of Social Responsibility, The Gift of a Guiding Purpose, The Gift of Respect for Life, The Gift of Equality and Individuality, The Gift of Work/Life Balance, and The Gift of Escaping the Cycle. By tracing their fascinating journey to the mainstream, we’ll discover a timeless core of purpose, integrity, and clarity in each value; a powerful gift of guidance as we navigate our own daily choices.

Here in New Orleans, as in hundreds of locations around the world, this course will offered beginning at the end of this month. At Chabad Uptown, the class will be offered on six Wednesdays starting January 29. For more information and to register, see www.chabadneworleans.com/jli. The first class will be free and open to the public at 7:15 pm on Wednesday, January 29. For more info see www.facebook.com/events/776308576203260. Dinner will be served. Please share this with anyone who may be interested. There is no obligation to sign up for the rest of the course, but beware that it may be too interesting to resist…

At Chabad Metairie, the course will be offered on six Tuesdays starting January 21 (with a week off for Mardi Gras). For more information and to register, see www.jewishlouisiana.com/jli. The first class will be free and open to the public at 7:15 pm on Wednesday, January 29. For more info see www.facebook.com/events/603993793697142. As above, Dinner will be served. Please share this with anyone who may be interested. There is no obligation to sign up for the rest of the course, but beware that it may be too interesting to resist…

We can either bemoan anti-Semitism or we can address it. Certainly we need to be more vigilant and steps must be taken to deal with it on many fronts. But being armed with the knowledge of what Judaism has given to the world, is a wonderful component that can reap long-term benefits for ourselves and those with whom we interact.  

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin
 

Books, Photos, and Random Thoughts

A couple of random musings…

Yesterday I was at the grocery store doing our weekly Shabbos shopping. A woman approached me and said that she was Jewish. She shared that she was inspired by the fact that I walked around looking visibly Jewish (she pointed to my kippah and Tzitzis), especially in light of the recent uptick of attacks against Jewish people. I thanked her for her words and we wished each other to be safe. We cannot overstate the value of proudly displaying our Jewishness.

This week Chabad booksellers are offering staggering discounts on books. The reason? Hei Teves – the 5th of the Teves. On this day in 1987 a fierce challenge to the Rebbe’s status as successor to his father-in-law was rejected in Federal court. The story can be seen at www.chabadneworleans.com/2807371. The face of the challenge was the books and manuscripts of the Chabad movement. When the ruling came forth, the Rebbe declared that the celebration is that of books. Over the years the Rebbe encouraged people to utilize this day to buy and study Jewish books. For great deals see www.kehot.com or www.sie.org. For an interesting take on this day and its spiritual significance, check out this post by my brother, Rabbi Yochanan Rivkin - https://www.facebook.com/yochanan.rivkin/posts/10102260771557499.

We recently posted nearly 40 great photos of Chanukah @ Riverwalk taken by JJ Hellinger. They can be viewed here – www.chabadneworleans.com/4273243.

This week we participated in the funeral of Sue Canalizo, wife of Hillel Canalizo. She passed away very early Tuesday morning. When the funeral logistics were being worked out, because of the legal holiday on Wednesday, there was a possibility of the funeral being delayed until Thursday. In the end took place on Wednesday. There is a Jewish tradition that a body is not left alone until the burial. A shomer – guardian stays with the deceased until the time of the burial. When speaking to Hillel about getting a shomer, we were facing the possibility of two days’ time. I said that he will need a break because it would be difficult to do it by himself. His response left me floored. “You have 55 years with a person. What’s two more days…” That devotion really impressed me. May we all have someone in our lives that feels like that! May Hashem comfort Hillel, Donna and her daughters, among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

A Menorah at the Children's Museum

As many are aware, the Louisiana Children’s Museum recently moved from the Warehouse District on Julia St. to a beautiful new venue in City Park. A few days before Chanukah a prominent member of the Jewish community respectfully expressed disappointment with the museum’s lack of inclusion of Chanukah in the seasonal display.

The director of the museum called Arnie Fielkow, CEO of the Jewish Federation, to ask for some guidance and help in incorporating a Chanukah element into the display. Arnie asked me if I would be willing to help. Of course I agreed and called the director right away. We ended up speaking only a few days later, on Monday the first day of Chanukah.

I expressed to her how appreciative we are of the museum’s desire to be inclusive of the Jewish community in the display. We talked about a few ideas and then I suggested that she consider displaying a Menorah that was built by the students of the Chabad Hebrew School. It had been on display at Chanukah @ Riverwalk and now it was available to be used at the museum. She loved the idea and how it fit with the rest of the theme. By that afternoon, Rabbi Zalman and Libby Groner dropped off the Chabad Hebrew School Menorah at the Louisiana Children’s Museum where it will be on display for the rest of Chanukah.    

There are a number of beautiful takeaways from this story. First how Chanukah has become a part of our society’s fabric. I believe the Chabad push for public Menorah lightings and Chanukah celebrations has a lot to do with that. Another takeaway is that sometimes a gentle push is needed to get something accomplished. Finally, the beauty of collaboration. When the different organizations that make up our community have a good working relationship, much good can be achieved.

Please see below for the first photos of Chanukah @ Riverwalk. We hope to have the professional photos and a full Chanukah recap next week.

Please also check out the links to the TV interviews in advance of this year’s Chanukah @ Riverwalk Celebration.

WWL-4 - https://www.wwltv.com/video/news/local/morning-show/celebrating-chanukah-at-the-riverwalk/289-adb6be78-99c1-43ca-8759-ae2090d0a6fb

WVUE-Fox8 - https://www.fox8live.com/video/20 19/12/20/menorah-lighting-rabbi-mendel-rivkin-samantha-brady/

WDSU-6 - https://www.wdsu.com/article/city-prepares-for-the-annual-menorah-lighting/30298860.

Wishing you a happy rest of Chanukah and Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

 

The Value of the Slightest Detail

This week one of our children had to undergo surgery to correct a “minor” issue, that could have potentially caused a “major” issue down the line. Thank G-d, the child is doing well. The medical team was wonderful, caring and professional; and with Hashem’s help our child is on the way to a full recovery.

It got me thinking about the intricate workings of the human body, and how the slightest shift in a seemingly insignificant part of our complex anatomy, can cause an issue that could far outweigh the perception of its importance. We are filled with blood vessels, ducts, muscles, sinews and a host of other bodily components. Each one of them serves a function. We don’t always appreciate the gravity of that function until it is threatened by malfunction. But they are all part of a larger system. We appreciate the importance of the major organs such as the heart, brain, liver or kidney. But there are “little things” that can threaten a “less significant” element of our anatomy; and the next thing you know the body is suffering from a major deficiency that stemmed from that “small issue.” The slightest bulge, blockage or twist in a vessel or duct can upset the entire system that makes the body hum like a well-oiled machine. Thankfully, the intelligence with which Hashem blessed human beings, has brought about major advancements in the area of detection and correction of health issues.

The Zohar states, that all of the cosmos (physical and spiritual) hangs on a single detail of a how a Mitzvah is fulfilled. Tanya explains, that each Mitzvah represents a Divine Energy that comes to the world to sustain it. What if a person doesn’t fulfill the Mitzvah exactly the way it is supposed to be done? The energy doesn’t get suffused into the world.

One might argue that it is not such a big deal. It is the intent that matters. What if I don’t do the Mitzvah exactly as the Torah tells me to? Big deal! My heart is in the right place. If the Mezuzah scroll is paper and not parchment. If the Tefillin are worn at night instead of during the day. If I light Shabbat candles 30 minutes after sunset instead of 18 minutes before sunset. If I celebrate Purim a day early or late. If I got rid of bread on Passover but not liquor. I could go on and on.

Would the same be said about a medical issue? What if the vessel had a miniscule blockage? What if the duct opened slightly? What if the muscle shifted to one side or another by an almost immeasurable amount? Would we say the same thing? Of course not! Because we see the actual impact of even the slightest vulnerability in the body’s condition. The same is true on the spiritual side of life. Care must be taken to follow the details and do the Mitzvahs correctly. In this way we ensure the health of our own selves as well as the cosmos as a whole.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

We Need Less Tolerance

This world needs a little less tolerance. No, that is not a typo and I have not gone over to the “other side.” Let me explain. Tolerance has become a buzz word and a major focal point in the shift toward progress in the area of combatting racial and other forms of discrimination.

But let’s think about the usage of the term. Here is how the dictionary defines tolerance: The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with. The second definition is: the capacity to endure continued subjection to something. So it seems that tolerance is a (somewhat) painful or challenging state of existence. We tolerate pain, we tolerate adverse conditions, and we tolerate people that are “other” to us.

Essentially tolerance is saying to the other that “really, I can’t stand you, but I have trained myself to not allow my distaste for you to cause me to run away and stay far from you.”

What we need is less tolerance and more love. We need to stop seeing people as “other” and start embracing them as “same.” This doesn’t mean that we embrace or even tolerate all that they think or do. It means that we look deeper into the essence of who they are beyond what they do or think. That they are Hashem’s children, Hashem’s handiwork, formed in Hashem’s image, and each one has a spark of Hashem within them.

What we need is less tolerance and more love.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Thankful for... Sleep

However it evolved and whatever the accurate story is… this day has been established as the American holiday to give thanks. We are bombarded with statements by everyone under the sun telling us that they are thankful for this and that. Companies for their customers. Employers for their employees. People for their friends and family. Societies for their freedoms and good fortune. All that is nice and good. But we need to establish to whom this thanks is meant to be offered.

Clearly the origins of the thanksgiving concept, as well as the formalized application the holiday, all point to a thanksgiving directed to the Creator, in gratitude for His blessings and salvation. Abraham Lincoln, when declaring Thanksgiving as an official American holiday fixed in the calendar, explicitly stated as much.

While having a day designated to express thanks to the Creator is a wonderful thing, as Jews we know that every day needs to be thanksgiving. The day of a Jewish person begins with an expression of thanks and ends with an expression of thanks. The first words that are supposed to be uttered immediately upon awakening are “Modeh Ani” – the words of gratitude to Hashem for restoring our soul and life to us once again. The final prayer we say praises Hashem for guarding over us as we sleep and the act of entrusting our soul to Hashem for refreshing.

One of the things that I reflect on in the realm of thanksgiving to Hashem, is the special value of sleep. After a day of work, stress, excitement, disappointment, worry, anticipation, joy, anxiousness and a host of other feelings and experiences, once can lay down to sleep and wake up refreshed the next morning with a new perspective and a sense of being able to deal with life anew. Often the new day following a night’s sleep brings with it a renewed sense of optimism and energy. The issues haven’t changed, but my perspective has – all thanks to the gift of sleep.

One of the commentaries to the prayer Modeh Ani is the contrast between Hashem and the natural world. If I entrust a beat up object to a friend for safekeeping, it will be returned to me in the same state. When we entrust a tired and battered soul to Hashem at the end of the day, He returns it to us renewed and refreshed.

Thank you Hashem for all that You have given us in every area of life!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

You've Come a Long Way Baby

Back in the 60s the cigarette company Virginia Slims coined the phrase “You’ve come a long way, baby.” They intended it in reference to equality in the quality of cigarettes geared toward women. While the only equality that it brought was equal exposure to lung cancer inducing carcinogens, the phrase has come to represent advances in the empowerment of women in our society.

This week the New Orleans Jewish community can declare a collective “You’ve come a long way, baby” to NOLA Jewish women. On Wednesday night 250 women from every walk of Jewish life gathered in the Gates of Prayer social hall for the 2nd Mega Challah Bake, an event brought to the community as a collaborative project between Chabad of Louisiana and Hadassah of New Orleans. This project began when Chabad approached Hadassah in 2017 about doing this. They enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to bring this special event to NOLA Jewish women. This year, under the leadership of Malkie Rivkin, Chaya Ceitlin and Chanie Nemes of Chabad, and Charisse Sands and Betty Moore of Hadassah, history was made in New Orleans. These five women, along with dozens of volunteers and many individual and corporate sponsors, put the word UNITY into COMMUNITY. Nearly every Synagogue sisterhood and community agency was represented. There was a feeling of true Achva – sisterhood – sitting together with 250 sisters in one room for a singular purpose – experiencing Jewish womanhood. The buzz around town and on social media is an indication of how impactful the event really was.

A Tree of Life honoring various Jewish women along with the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue and Chabad of Poway attacks, was a beautiful feature. There are pictures in the photo section below. (The official event photos will be released next week and we will happily bring them to you.)

The rest of the community has some catching up to do. The women are showing us the way to true achdus – unity. We talk a lot about unity and collaborative efforts in the NOLA Jewish community, and much progress has been made on that front. But we can learn a boat load about togetherness from the women of Chabad and Hadassah and the 250 ladies that participated in the event.

Wishing a restful Shabbat to all those that invested so much effort and hard work into the success of the program!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

 

The Power of Empowerment

In a class last week we were discussing the contrast between Avraham and the great people that preceded him. The Torah singles Avraham out for praise for above individuals such as Adam, Chanoch, Noach, and Shem. I asked the participants why they thought this was so. One person offered the following idea. The earlier great people had knowledge of Hashem because Hashem communicated with them. Avraham was the first to discover Hashem on his own. Now this is a logical and compelling conclusion. Yet, I pointed out, the Torah tells us nothing about Avraham’s early life of discovering Hashem and sharing that discovery with thousands around him. All we know about Avraham’s early life is who his father was, who he married and that he left his birthplace to a land called Charan. Any other information we have about Avraham’s accomplishments until he was past 70 is from the Oral tradition and a few hints in later verses of the Written Torah.

We meet Avraham in the Torah when Hashem commands him at the age of 75 to leave Charan and move to Canaan. That is the opening of this week’s Parsha. This implies that there is a marked distinction between the life of Avraham until that command and the life of Avraham following that command.

The Rebbe points out that this teaches us that the true power that a Jew has to impact the universe and bring change to the world is when the Jew is empowered by the command of Hashem. We can achieve much through our own efforts, as is evidenced by the first 75 years of Avraham’s life. But he power of real and lasting transformation comes when we are empowered by Hashem’s command.

This is the underlying reason why Mitzvahs are such a vital part of Jewish life. Mitzvahs are plugged into the “Divine juice.” This, in turn, endows us with the same infinite energy flow, with which we can infuse the world with divinity.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Taking Ownership

Yesterday, during a prison chaplaincy visit to FCC Oakdale, I met with a gentleman whom I have known for over a year now. Prior to his incarceration there were many years of disconnect from Judaism. He has been working hard on rekindling his relationship with Hashem. He has been laying tefillin daily, praying from the Siddur multiple times a day, and increased his commitment to Kosher and Shabbat observance to the best of his ability under the circumstances. During our conversation we were talking about the recent holidays; he pointed on his Jewish calendar to Simchat Torah and asked me what that was about. I explained that it was the day we complete the reading of the Torah and when we begin anew. He expressed to me that he wants to start learning the Torah, but he is overwhelmed by the vastness of the (written) Torah and doesn’t know where to begin. It seems he had been just reading randomly and did not get a sense of the structure of it.

I taught him the idea of the weekly Torah portion and that one should study 1/7th of the Parsha each day. In this way there is a structured manner to studying the Parsha each week and the entire Torah each year. He was so excited with the prospect of tackling this new project that his glee was palpable. He thumped his Chumash and declared “I am going to own this thing.” And then he exclaimed with joy, “Next year, Simchat Torah is going to be my celebration.” We wrapped up our conversation, I gave him a hug, and left the prison to begin my 4 hour drive back to New Orleans.

It got me thinking about the idea of taking ownership of the Torah. We already have ownership of the Torah, as the verse in the last Parsha announces “The Torah that Moshe commanded us is an inheritance for the congregation of Yaakov.” But what about our Torah study? Have we taken ownership of that? How many of us are as excited as my friend in Oakdale about studying Torah? Do we look at a volume of the Torah, Talmud, Code of Jewish Law or Chassidus and say “I am going to own this thing?”

Psalm 1:2 states, “But his desire is in the Torah of the L-rd, and in His Torah he contemplates day and night. Why does it begin by referring to the Torah of Hashem and then the Torah is called His Torah? The simple understanding is that His refers to Hashem, but in a deeper sense, “his” could be referring to the person studying who has “taken ownership” and made the Torah his own. This is done by elevating our qualitative and quantitative devotion to the study of Torah. May we merit to be excited over our taking ownership of our Torah study all the days of our lives.

Due to an illness, the weekend with Rabbi Leibel Groner has been deferred to a later time TBA.  

The first session of our inaugural JLI course entitled Worrier to Warrior is being held this Tuesday evening, November 6 at 7 PM – Chabad Uptown. The class is free and open to the public and dinner will be served. You will have an option to register for the entire course if you wish to continue. More info at www.chabandneworleans.com/jli. We look forward to seeing you there. Please let us know that you are coming. The course is being offered on Tuesdays (beginning the 12th) at Chabad Metairie with the same options. For more info www.jewishlouisiana.com/jli.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Are you a physician or mental health professional?

Are you a physician or mental health professional? If so, please continue reading.

Are you not a physician or mental health professional? If so, please continue reading.

The JLI course entitled Worrier to Warrior launches early in November. The six week course is designed to address negative emotions such as feelings of inadequacy and worrying, while seeking to introduce joy and positivity back into ones life. The course has drawn much interest locally and nationally.

We are pleased to share with you that JLI is partnering with the CE office at Albert Einstein Medical College to provide continuing education credits for the upcoming course, Worrier to Warrior. Einstein is an accredited medical school, accredited by the APA, The American Psychological Association and the AMA’s Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education.

Doctors, Psychologists, and Social Workers in Louisiana will be able to earn up to 15 CE credits. Nine credits for attendance, and additional credits for studying the supplemental reading. Take advantage of this opportunity to further your Jewish education while gaining CE credits.

If you are not in the medical/mental health field, take advantage of the life transforming wisdom that this course has to offer.   

We are excited that Chabad Uptown is one of the new affiliates of JLI. We will be offering this fall’s 6 part course beginning Wednesday, November 6. I am enthusiastic about teaching my first JLI course. For information on registering for the Uptown course please go to www.chabadneworleans.com/jli.

Chabad Metairie has been a JLI affiliate for years. The course will be offered in Metairie beginning Tuesday, November 12 by veteran instructor, Rabbi Mendel Ceitlin. For info on registering for the Metairie course please go to www.jewishlouisiana.com/jli.

The first class at each location will be open to public at no charge, and refreshments will be served. Come taste and see that it is good.

The cost for attending the class is $70 per person with a 10% couples or bring a friend discount. The cost also includes the student textbook. Register now and your student textbook will be waiting for you in November.

On behalf of all the Shluchim at Chabad of Louisiana I want to thank all of those who were involved in our holiday programs this month. We are grateful to all of our supporters, volunteers, and participants. Hundreds passed through the doors of our institutions over the holidays. Thousands of meals were served. There were many hours of prayer, study, celebration and inspiration. There were many days of preparation for each of the holidays. All of this could not have been achieved without the dedication of our staff and volunteers, and the generosity of our supporters. So we say Yasher Koach – may we merit to do so again next year, and for years to come, in good health and with great joy. May Hashem bless each and every one for all they have done for His children.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Love Me Some Me

Earlier this week I got an email from someone, that mentioned how we are transitioning from the busy intensity of the high holidays into the relaxed mode of Sukkot and Simchat Torah. My first thought was, “Relaxed mode? Ha!” Sukkot is a wonderfully busy time of hosting as many Jews as possible in the Sukkah, and then tracking down as many Jews as possible with the Lulav and Etrog. As for Simchat Torah, from my standpoint, this is the most important and intense part of the holiday month. In fact, if I am asked to suggest the one day a year a person should attend Shul (at Chabad), I would recommend Simchat Torah. Why? Let me give you some context.

The mystics see the holiday season as phases in the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people. Elul is the courtship. Rosh Hashanah is the proposal, with the sounding of the Shofar being our “I do.” Yom Kippur is the Chupah, with Neilah being the Yichud (time that the bride and groom are secluded after the Chupah). Sukkot is the wedding reception and Sheva Brachot. During this time we celebrate with our well-wishers – the nations of the world. (Sukkot in the Beit Hamikdash was a time when offerings were brought on behalf of the 70 root nations of humanity.)

After the courtship, the wedding, the reception, and the celebration with others, the bride and groom then go home to celebrate with each other alone. They begin to explore the oneness and connection that they have with each other. They discover that they are two halves of the same soul. The love for each other is essentially the love of self (in an “unselfish manner”).

This, my friends, is what Simchat Torah is all about. It is our private time to celebrate with Hashem. It is the intensity of the joy that two halves of a single whole experience when they become one. It is the time to “Love me some me,” but in the polar opposite manner than the conventional application of that phrase. To quote the Zohar, “Israel and her King are one and alone.”

Please don’t let this amazing moment slip away without tapping into the special energy of Simchat Torah. Join us for Hakafot on Monday night and/or Tuesday morning. Come “love me some me” as you lose your ego in the arms of your other half, Hashem.  

Please check out our photos below of last night’s amazing Sukkah-Fest.

Shabbat Shalom
Chag Sameach
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Reset the Game Clock

There are situations in a football game when the officials overturn a call (except in New Orleans…). Usually following that, the head official calls for the game clock to be reset by a few seconds, thereby giving another opportunity to make a play. But the real fresh opportunity to make plays are when the game clock reads Q1 15:00, signaling the start of the game.

Right now our game clock reads Q1 15:00. On Yom Kippur the slate is wiped clean and we have the amazing opportunity to start over fresh and new. The beauty of it is, that the first encounter after Yom Kippur is Sukkot preparations, followed by the holiday of Sukkot, followed by Simchat Torah. We have opportunities to score big time in our Judaism over the next two weeks.

Yom Kippur reveals our connection with Hashem. Sukkot is our chance to act on that, applying our connection in a practical sense. There are so many Mitzvahs coming our way. We can eat in a Sukkah, shake the Lulav and Etrog, rejoice in the festival, celebrate our heritage, share a Sukkot experience with others, and, of course, the regular day to day Mitzvahs.

We must make the most of this wonderful time in the Jewish calendar and the fresh start that has been handed to us. Looking forward to celebrating Sukkot with you. Join us in our Sukkah for a meal. Come by and shake the Lulav and Etrog at Chabad. Attend the Sukkah-Fest celebration on the 17th. Celebrate your Judaism with limitless joy on Simchat Torah at Chabad.

Don’t let the moment slip away without cashing in on the gift that Hashem has given each and every one of us. The game clock is reset. This is your time to shine!!

Wishing you a very joyous Sukkot and Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Start Worrying. Details to Follow

“Start worrying. Details to follow.” Text of a Jewish telegram.

Are you a worrier? My mother told me that when she was younger and there was a “crisis” in her childhood home, her brother would assign tasks to all the members of the family to address the issue. “Bluma,” he would say to her, “Your job is to worry.”

It seems that worrying is a Jewish (and universal, for that matter) trait. This trait is the subject of many Jewish jokes. However, in real life it is no joking matter. Worrying can be debilitating. It can sap all of our energy, preventing us from moving forward and achieving our goals. If can be a major obstacle in our meaningful service of Hashem. Myriads of self-help books have been written on the topic, with varying degrees of success.

What does Judaism have to say about worrying? Does Chassidus have any solutions for this disquieting characteristic? The Alter Rebbe in Tanya devotes a series of chapters addressing the idea of negative feelings such as worry and melancholy. Next month a new JLI (Jewish Learning Institute) course will be launched entitled “Worrier to Warrior.” It is based primarily on those teachings.

We are proud to announce that Chabad Uptown is a new affiliate of JLI. We will be offering this fall’s 6 part course beginning Wednesday, November 6. For information on registering for the Uptown course please go to www.chabadneworleans.com/jli. Chabad Metairie has been a JLI affiliate for years. The course will be offered in Metairie beginning Tuesday, November 12. For info on registering for the Metairie course please go to www.jewishlouisiana.com/jli.

The first class at each location will be open to public at no charge and refreshments will be served. Come taste and see that it is good.

We are pleased to share with you that JLI is partnering with the CE office at Albert Einstein Medical College to provide continuing education credits for the upcoming course, Worrier to Warrior. Einstein is an accredited medical school, accredited by the APA, The American Psychological Association and the AMA’s Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education.

Doctors, Psychologists, Social Workers in Louisiana will be able to earn up to 15 CE credits. Nine credits for attendance, and additional credits for studying the supplemental reading. Take advantage of this opportunity to further your Jewish education while gaining CE credits.

If you are not in the medical/mental health field, take advantage of the life transforming wisdom that this course has to offer. We look forward to seeing you there in November.

May you be sealed for a good and sweet year in all areas of life.
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

 

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