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ChabadNewOrleans Blog

My Emmy Nominated Mobile Menorah

A year ago, as I walked back from the Spanish Plaza to my vehicle following our virtual Chanukah @ Riverwalk, I found a note under my windshield wiper. It was from Bill Wood and Jason Abshire, journalists associated with the Wild Bill program at WGNO. They were intrigued by the Menorah on top of the car and were interested in doing a feature story about it. We set a time and a few days later they came to do the story. It ran during Chanukah last year and you can view the story here - https://fb.watch/2sCGAKRwlu/.

After the program ran, I texted Bill and congratulated him on a job well done. He jokingly replied that he will submit it for an Emmy. A year later I come across a news tidbit that the story had actually been nominated for a Suncoast Regional Emmy in the religion category. The competition in that category is mostly about religious scandals and exposes… So, who knows?

While my 300,000 mile Ford Crown Vic is no longer, the legend of the car menorah lives on. In fact, this year, we ordered an additional 30 Menorahs, so we anticipate an expanded parade in the number of vehicles participating. The parade departs from Chabad Uptown at 7:30 Saturday night (Dec 4). There will be a party bus for children and a lot of fun for all involved. The parade route goes from down St. Charles into the CBD, French Quarter, the edge of the Marigny and then back home using the same route.

Some folks question the value of the Mobile Menorahs. They argue that it is merely a publicity stunt and does not accomplish anything of substance. I vehemently disagree. I have seen the excitement that the Mobile Menorahs bring to passersby. This year, I heard from a Shliach in a small town, that he got a call from a man who identified himself as someone who had been cut off from Judaism for many years, but his Jewish spark had burst into flame from seeing the Rabbi’s Mobile Menorah riding around their small town.

One of the principles of Chanukah is Pirsumei Nissa – publicizing the miracle. There is no doubt in my mind that in the past 45 years since the Rebbe launched the public Menorah campaigns, tens of thousands of Jewish sparks have burst into flame as a result, and millions of Mitzvos have been performed. My son Sholom is in Tel Aviv this year. He shared with me that he helped pack 10,000(!) Menorah kits to be distributed on the streets of Tel Aviv this Chanukah. In our Shtetl of New Orleans, hundreds of boxes of candles were distributed along with many Menorahs, at events all over town and direct home delivery.

We are witnessing real change and even transformation! The struggle between light and darkness is tough, but victory is within reach.

Here are some links to the coverage of Chanukah @ Riverwalk.
TV: 
https://www.wdsu.com/article/menorah-lights-up-new-orleans-riverwalk-on-hanukkahs-first-night/38370394
Newspaper: 
https://www.nola.com/multimedia/photos/collection_7f10ba0c-50b1-11ec-9de4-032c944a42cf.html

Facebook Live (Thank you Yishai): https://www.facebook.com/jesse.mahan1/videos/602310824219080.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanukah
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin 

Gratitude: 2021 Edition

As Jews we are constantly expressing our gratitude to Hashem. We say thank you three times a day in prayer, each time we eat, drink or benefit from Hashem’s creation, and any other opportunity we might have. Since Thanksgiving has been formalized by our society as a time for expressing gratitude to Hashem, it is a nice thing to do in connection with this season as well.

Malkie and I celebrated the recent birth and bris of our son, Shneur Zalman.

We are grateful for a healthy baby and healthy mother.

We are grateful for a smooth birthing process.

We are grateful for a devoted medical team, who made the experience so pleasant. (Join me in supporting our NOLA healthcare workers by participating in the Torah scroll in their honor – www.torahforourheroes.com.)

We are grateful for the nurse who shared with us that she has been involved in delivering 50,000 babies into this world.

We are grateful for the nurse who came dancing into our room calling out Mazel Tov – Baruch Hashem. She shared with us that she had done a stint up in New Jersey during one of the COVID surges and she got a heavy dose of delivering Jewish babies, while dealing with Jewish bubbies.

We are grateful for our doctor and her incredible supportiveness of our large family lifestyle.

We are grateful for our loving family and their support before, during, and since Shneur’s birth.

We are grateful for the embrace of our NOLA community as we celebrate this simcha.

We are grateful for the privilege to name our son, Shneur Zalman, after the first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. He has been one of the figures in Jewish history by which I have been fascinated. His towering impact on my life and the life of anyone that has been touched by Chabad over the last 250 years, is hard to quantify. His revolutionary doctrines have transformed the way we have approached Judaism in a most powerful manner. To know that our child has the honor of bearing his name is very meaningful to us.

Chanukah begins this Sunday night. Our sages frame Chanukah as a time for praise and thanksgiving. Couldn’t have come at a better time!! I hope to see you at Chanukah @ Riverwalk Sunday night and any of the other Chanukah programs coming up over the next week or so.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanukah
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

A Torah for NOLA Healthcare Heroes

We are very excited to announce that Chabad of Louisiana is partnering with the Jewish Medical Society to dedicate a new Torah Scroll for the welfare of the Healthcare Heroes in our community.

These last two years have been very challenging for the healthcare community due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. During an 18th century plague in Eastern Europe, the Baal Shem Tov spearheaded the writing of a Torah Scroll as a protection for the community in the face of the plague.

Hope, Security and Unity! These are the primary things we seek during these challenging times. As Jewish people we have always found comfort in our Torah. Every Jew is connected to the Torah and the Torah connects us with G-d, creating an unbreakable and eternal trio.

The final Mitzvah in the Torah is that every Jew own a Torah scroll or at least part of one. It is for this reason that the Rebbe, requested that Torah scrolls be written to unite Jewish people and that every Jew acquire a letter in these Torah scrolls. The prophet Daniel proclaims: "It will be a time of trouble, the like of which has never been since the nation came into being. At that time, your people will be rescued, all who are found inscribed in The Book." The Rebbe explained that "The Book" alludes to a Torah Scroll that will be written for all Jewish people and in which every Jew should have a letter.

·       Honor a healthcare hero by participating in the writing of the Torah scroll in their honor.

·       Are you a member of the healthcare community? Participate in the writing of the Torah scroll as a merit for you and your family.

·       Do you know some that passed away from COVID? Participate in the writing of the Torah scroll in their memory.

·       Make this Torah scroll honoring healthcare heroes a reality by participating in the writing of the Torah scroll in their honor.

You can be a part of this special project now at www.Torahforourheroes.com.

You can sponsor one of the five books of the Torah. You can dedicate a special passage, such as the prayer for healing, the doctor’s mandate, the Ten Commandments and more. Dedicate a Torah portion, an Aliyah, a verse, a word, or a letter. There is an option for everyone.

Join us for the Siyum - Conclusion and Dedication Ceremony - Sunday, Dec 19 – at the Tulane University LBC Quad, featuring Chassidic music superstar, Shulem Lemmer in concert, and a Torah parade to Chabad on Freret St.

Do not miss this amazing opportunity to honor those who have sacrificed for all of us. Go to www.Torahforourheroes.com and participate now!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

We Are Shortchanging Our Children!

Imagine that some children were the heirs to a multi-million-dollar fortune. Their wealth was set up so that some of it was easily accessible with a simple password. However, this was just a miniscule sliver of the vast riches that was theirs. To access the real extent of the fortune, there was a complex process of several steps and verifications that had to be traversed before one could get to the big bucks. Now imagine parents who only taught their children the simple password and neglected to teach them about the steps needed to access the treasure that was theirs. Take it one step further. What if those parents didn’t even bother to inform their children about the existence of the fortune altogether?

This scenario is playing out every single day in Jewish families around the world. Each Jewish child is the heir to a precious treasure called Judaism and the Torah. The treasure can give us a beautiful life of a meaningful relationship with G-d. Access to this treasure requires becoming aware of its existence and getting trained in the steps necessary along the path to luxurious enjoyment of the enrichment that this treasure can infuse into our lives.

For some odd reason, the vast majority of Jewish parents are content to give their children a superficial exposure to the training needed to access the treasure. Kids barely learn the password that gives them just mediocre benefit from what is rightfully theirs. We neglect to open them up to the endless possibilities that this fortune has to offer. They come away thinking that Judaism is about self-defense against haters, commitment to a land whose importance they don’t really appreciate, and a devotion to social justice values that are not uniquely Jewish. These ideas are even often in conflict with each other…

What about the richness of Hashem’s love for us? What about the depth of the Torah’s ageless wisdom? What about the transformative power of a Mitzvah? What about the unique insight Judaism has into human character? What about the life-altering altruism of seeing another as I see myself? What about the mystical treasures that reveal a vista to a spiritual cosmos that changes everything we know about life?

Why are we shortchanging our children? If and when they discover the treasure on their own, they will confront us with a legitimate demand, wanting to know why we cheated them!

The reason might be that we weren’t told about it ourselves. But ignorance is not bliss. Start exploring the treasure that is yours, and don’t delay for a moment sharing this discovery with your children. They will bless you for all eternity for giving them the most precious gift in the world.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

A Life Unhindered By Death

Three theologians were discussing the issue of when life begins according to their respective religious doctrines. While two of them were debating whether it is at conception or at birth, the Jewish one declared, “Jews do not consider a fetus viable until it graduates from medical school.”

This week’s Parsha contains a glaring question that stares you in the face from beginning to end. The name of the Parsha is Chayei Sarah (the life of Sarah), while the Parsha begins with Sarah’s death and burial, continues with the comfort that her son Yitzchak finds in his marriage, and ends with Avraham’s remarriage and subsequent passing. Where in any of this is the life of Sarah? Every single element of the Parsha seems to be exactly the opposite.

Sarah’s life was devoted to her shared mission with Avraham to make the world a G-dly place by teaching people about Hashem. She was also fiercely protective of the welfare of her son Yitzchak, and the future of the nation that would issue forth from him. Each aspect of the Parsha is a fulfillment of her mission. The purchase of the Machpelah cave as a burial plot for Sarah, was the first formal foothold of the Jewish people into what would eventually become the land of Israel. Yitzchak’s marriage to Rivkah, the first Jewish marriage in history, heralded the beginning of our nation’s birth. Avraham’s passing, saw Yishmael defer to Yitzchak, thereby confirming Sarah’s prophetic insistence that Yishmael not be allowed to negatively influence her son. So, in actual fact, the entire Parsha is the life of Sarah, a life unhindered by her passing.

This weekend, Chabad Shluchim from around the world gather for our annual conference. Since I am unable to be there in person, in our era of virtual alternatives, I was able to benefit by watching the live stream of the meeting that began yesterday. I found it very uplifting that the theme of this year’s conference revolves around the mandate that the Rebbe gave us as his emissaries, the last time he addressed the conference in 1991. He declared that our task is now to prepare ourselves and the rest of the world (via our communities) for the coming redemption through Mashiach.

The energy with which the theme is infused this year might lead one to conclude that this is an idea that was just conceived in the last few months. Yet, it is a mandate from 30 years ago. In fact, this week marked the bitter milestone of 10,000 days since the 3rd of Tammuz, 1994, the day that the Rebbe’s physical presence was taken from us. But it is like Chayei Sarah – the life of Sarah, which continues and increases in strength through those who carry on her life’s mission. So too, the Rebbe’s mandate and leadership continues and increases through the work of those inspired by his teachings, with ever-expanding dedication and wonderous accomplishments.

May we merit the realization of this mission very soon with the complete and final Redemption!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Connecting Everything With Love

What is the ideal dynamic of a relationship with G-d? What is the most effective approach to motivating ourselves or someone else with respect to our Judaism? There was a time when fear was an accepted approach to keeping people on the straight and narrow path. This method may have even been somewhat effective, though it can be argued that fear alone has major limitations as a motivator.

I recently read an interview with an educator from a very religious institution, talking about guidance he got from the Rebbe in the 1960s. Today we cannot just lay out a list of “don’ts” or speak of negative consequences for failure to follow the religion. We must educate with love. We should focus on the beauty of Judaism and foster the student’s appreciation of it.

There is a passage in the Zohar where Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai offers various opinions in answering our opening question. He then concludes with his own take on the best method of conveying Judaism. “We connect everything with love.” He goes on to cite several passages from Tanach to prove this.

In fact, there is a narrative in this week’s Torah portion that expresses the same idea. Speaking of Avraham Hashem declares (Gen. 18:19), “For I have known him because he commands his sons and his household after him, that they should keep the way of the L-rd to perform righteousness and justice.” Rashi comments, “For I have known him: an expression of love.” He then goes on to elaborate. “…if one loves a person, he draws him near to himself and knows him and is familiar with him.”  

When we love Hashem, we want to become more familiar with Him and what He wants of us. When we know Hashem loves us, we become aware that fulfilling His will is in our benefit as well. With love as the foundation, everything about our connection with Hashem is more passionate and vibrant.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Three Generations of Service

King Solomon states in Kohelet 4:12, “A three-stranded cord will not quickly be broken.” The sages of the Talmud comment, “The Torah returns to its host.” This means that when three generations of a family are faithful to the study and practice of Torah, the Torah wishes to remain where it is welcome. We say in our daily prayers that the covenant of Hashem with one who studies and practices the Torah is that, “My spirit which is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your children, nor from the mouth of your children’s children.”

This week something unprecedented in the New Orleans Jewish community is developing. For years now there have been Rabbinic teams of two generations in our community. We are happy to share, that with the appointment of Rabbi Yossi and Mushka Cohen to the Chabad of Louisiana team, this brings a third generation into service to the Jewish community. They will be involved in a new effort of community engagement.

If you know someone in the community that is not currently engaged in Jewish activities or that may appreciate connecting to a young Rabbinic family, please share that with us. They are eager to hit the ground running to make sure that every Jew in New Orleans has the opportunity to connect to his or her Yiddishkeit!

The institution of Shlichus that the Rebbe and his father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe, launched in the 1940s, is now into its fourth generation. I am privileged to be the son and grandson of the pioneering generations of Shluchim. To witness my children continuing on this path, is something for which I am very grateful to Hashem. We are blessed that the Rebbe entrusts us with this remarkable responsibility and privilege of caring for each and every Jew.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Keeping Up With the Joneses and the Schwartzes

Sometime in the early 1950s my grandfather, Rabbi Sholom Gordon OBM, brought a group of Bar Mitzvah boys from his Hebrew School in Newark, NJ to the see the Rebbe. The Rebbe asked one of the boys if he was planning to continue his Jewish studies next school year. In typical American Jewish fashion of the time, the boy replied in the negative. The Rebbe asked why. He explained that none of the kids on his block were going after their Bar Mitzvahs either. The Rebbe asked him which topic in the Torah he enjoyed learning this year, to which he responded, the story of Noah and the Ark. The Rebbe pointed out, “If Noah had done what all the people of his block were doing, then there would have been nobody left for G-d to save. Only because he did what was right, despite it being unpopular, do we have human history as we know it.”

Then the Rebbe asked the next boy the same question. He too gave the same answer and reason. When the Rebbe asked which Torah topic he enjoyed, he mentioned the story of Avraham. The Rebbe pointed out the Avraham was called the Ivri (Hebrew), which means that he was on a side opposite of everyone else. While the whole world pursued foolish fantasies of idolatry, Avraham discovered and preached a faith in Hashem. “Imagine if Avraham had done what everyone else on his block were doing, then there would be no Jewish people. Only because he did what was right, despite it being unpopular, do we have a Jewish people and a Judaism today.”

Keeping up with Joneses, or even with the Schwartzes, is not always the path to pursue. We must have an inner moral compass, that empowers us to do what is right, despite it being unpopular. Obviously, we must be pleasant to those around us. There is no room for condescension or feelings of elitism. Just doing the right thing!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Don't Be Obsessed With Trash

How many of us here in the NOLA area have associated the sound of a garbage truck on the block with unmitigated joy and celebration? The debris left from Hurricane Ida, along with the disruption to trash pickup service, have made trash talk a rival to Covid and the weather as the most discussed topics. Now, garbage is a reality of life. We all produce it, and we all need it to be removed. However, it is not supposed to be the aspect of life that takes front and center of our consciousness. Garbage production and removal should be an area of life that just happens quietly. When it becomes a noisy focus, we know that something is not quite right.

This is true in our spiritual lives as well. As imperfect humans, we all produce some soul trash. As folks striving to heighten our relationship with G-d, we engage in trash removal. Sometimes that is a smelly job that leaves us feeling gross while we do it, but the cleanliness that follows is heavenly. As long as this process remains on the back burner of life, we are good. When garbage becomes an obsession, when we know that something is not quite right.

The primary focus of life, the topic of our spiritually targeted conversations, should be about positivity. We should be excited about light and holiness. We should be celebrating Mitzvahs and our opportunities to make the world a better place. Garbage should be relegated to the pails, the bins, the trucks that make their rounds in the predawn hours, the sewer system. These are all critical components of life, without which we are doomed to misery. But let’s keep them in their proper place, and not allow them to seep into the rest of life, leaving us wondering why life smells like New Orleans after a category 4 storm.

L’chaim to a sweet-smelling year of 5782, where garbage is back in its rightful place in the hierarchy of life!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

 

Sukkah Sagas

On Sukkot we are commanded to dwell in the Sukkah. Our sages comment, that it should be dwelling in a manner similar to how we are in our permanent home. This year, for many in the New Orleans area, our Sukkahs resemble our homes more than ever before thanks to the leaky roofs due Hurricane Ida.

I want to share two stories that I read this week on this topic, one whimsical and the other a story of determination.

Reb Boruch Mordechai was a chosid of the Alter Rebbe and the Rabbi of the town of Babroisk. Apparently the townspeople of Babroisk adhered to the time-honored tradition of under-paying their Rabbi. As such, he was always struggling to make ends meet. When Sukkot came, he asked his landlord to build a Sukkah outside his dwelling. The landlord did so and demanded immediate payment, stating that otherwise it would not be “a dwelling similar to a permanent home.” The Rabbi replied, “on the contrary, if I paid upfront it would be entirely dissimilar to my regular dwelling for which I am always late on the rent.”

The second story was recorded by Rebbetzin Chana, the Rebbe’s mother, in her diary where she recounted the extreme conditions under which she and he illustrious husband R’ Levi Yitzchak, lived during their forced exile deep in Kazakhstan. They rented a room from a Tatar woman in the village of Chili. When Sukkot approached, they began to construct an anteroom to their part of the house to use as a Sukkah. Ostensibly, the claimed that it was to create a buffer against the cold wind that would blow directly into their room. The landlady insisted that they add a roof to give the structure stability. This of course would invalidate the room from being used as a Sukkah. They argued that they could not afford this at present, and that it would get done before the winter set in. Such was their determination to fulfill the Mitzvah under very trying circumstances.

With Hashem’s blessings, we do not face such difficulties. True many of us are dealing with the fallout from the Hurricane, the pandemic and other life’s challenges. It is important for us to remember that Sukkot and Simchat Torah are the festivals of rejoicing. The joy on this holiday and with the Mitzvahs associated with it, are a vehicle for Hashem’s open and revealed blessings for all good things.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Sukkot
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

The Double Edged Sword of Yom Kippur

We are coming off a most meaningful Yom Kippur. People were excited to be back in Shul after an evacuation. I saw a potent energy this Yom Kippur at Chabad House. That being said, Yom Kippur can be a double-edged sword.

On one hand, a Jew can come away from Yom Kippur energized and uplifted, with a passion and drive to embrace the next Jewish experience. For this Jew, Sukkot cannot come soon enough. So many Mitzvahs and causes to celebrate. One can eat in the Sukkah, shake the Lulav and Etrog, and dance on Simchat Torah. For such a Jew, there is nothing as empowering as the momentum derived from a vibrant Yom Kippur. There is enough fuel in the Jewish tank to last for a long time. Yom Kippur whetted the appetite for Yiddishkeit and there is a feeling of wanting more and more. I am very excited for such a Jew, because their Yiddishkeit quotient will soar over the coming year.

On the other hand, one might come away from Yom Kippur feeling like a fully accomplished Jew with no need to consider Yiddishkeit until next year. Since we were given a clean slate, no further investment of effort is necessary. For such a Jew, there is an anti-climactic sentiment associated with the end of Yom Kippur. I am saddened by this attitude, because it represents a wasted opportunity to harness the power of Yom Kippur to take us to the next level.

I beg you, be in the first category rather than the second! Don’t let Yom Kippur be for naught. Yom Kippur is about developing our relationship with Hashem.  A relationship requires effort and investment. Every Mitzvah, every Jewish holiday celebration, every chance to pray or study Torah, constitutes an investment in the relationship. Hashem is pleading with us to be invested in this relationship that He so strongly desires. It is the best thing that can happen to us!

Wishing you a meaningful post-Yom Kippur rest of the Jewish year!
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin 

A Tribute to George Haas

Yesterday we learned of the sudden passing of George Haas. Our hearts go out to Elaine, his wife of 62 years, their children, and the entire family. What a time to go! With a clean slate the day after Rosh Hashanah.

I called George “my favorite Levi” (he was a Levite and delighted in being called to the Torah as one). He was a mensch par excellence and one of the proudest Jews I’ve ever met. He cared about Klal Yisrael with every fiber of his being. He possessed an encyclopedic knowledge about all kinds of things. He would often ask trick questions about Jewish traditions and calendar quirks. He would frequently make meaningful observations about things that I wrote or events that were occurring. His musical ken was second to none. We once had a performer tease the audience with a few notes from a song, asking if anyone could identify the composition. George piped up immediately with the correct answer, “the nutcracker.” With all of his positive qualities, he really did not like making a big deal out of himself. He had a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor, as well as many other types of humor.

If there was one thing that George was more passionate about than anything else, it would be Jewish continuity. He was rabidly devoted to this cause. I am sure his survival of the Holocaust and escape from Vienna in 1939 contributed to his obsession with Jewish continuity. He wanted to ensure that he would have proud Jewish children and proud Jewish grandchildren. He was ecstatic every time another grandchild was born. He saw each Jewish baby as the answer to Hitler. In fact, every baby that was born in the community was a cause for celebration on George’s part. I cannot count the number of posts and comments from George on Facebook when he saw an announcement of a new baby, or a family photo with a bunch of children. I was once invited to give the invocation at the Yom Hashoah event at the JCC. I spoke about the importance of filling the void left by the murder of 6 million. To quote, “As we gather to remember the lives of six million kedoshim – holy ones, we must commit ourselves to filling the void. My good friend, George Haas, native of Vienna who escaped just ahead of the war, sees each of his grandchildren as an answer to Hitler. Filling the void…”

George recently celebrated his 90th birthday. In typical George Haas fashion, he wanted to celebrate with his family and friends, with a Kiddush in Shul at Chabad Metairie. He sent me this email, “Dear Rabbi Mendel: I’ll be celebrating my 90th Yom Huledet at the Chabad Center on the Shabbos preceding Memorial Day. In order not to slight the uptown folks I would like to re-celebrate my Yom Huledet on Breshit in early fall with a special Open Kiddush.” A few weeks later the sponsorship for the grand Kiddush arrived. I can assure you George, that we will have a rocking Kiddush to celebrate your life, knowing that you will be with us in spirit. Farewell my friend. May your soul be bound with the Source of all life!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

The Generator the Tipped the Scales

A simple wagon driver once saw a carriage filled with people careening down a hill out of control. He ran and jumped on the horse and slowed it down, ultimately bringing them a halt, thereby saving the lives of all the passengers, the driver, and the horses, as well as the carriage. After a nice long life, he passed on and came before the heavenly court. He was a good guy, but he had done some good and some of the opposite. His deeds were placed on the scale, and it was tipping to the wrong side. Suddenly an angel came dragging the lives of the family that he saved. It was still tipping the wrong way. The angel brought the horses, and then the carriage. It was still tipping in the wrong direction. Finally, the angel came dragging the mud that was stuck to the wheels and that tipped the scale for good, earning the wagon driver his ticket to heaven.

Usually, the week before Rosh Hashanah is spent on my own intense spiritual preparations for the upcoming Days of Awe. As a Rabbi, I have the additional obligation to inspire a congregation. With Ida blowing through town, leaving so many in such dire straits, this week was spent on an entirely different set of activities. Rather than study and meditate on the deeper meaning of Rosh Hashanah, we were hooking up generators and distributing fuel. Instead of preparing uplifting sermons, we were bringing cold water, ice, and food to folks around the region, along with a friendly face, a warm word and some cheer. Instead of considering our deeds on judgement day, we were connecting with people making sure they were safe, having them know that someone cares.

I am confident that when our deeds are placed on the scale this year, the generators, the fuel, the ice, the water, the smiles and caring words will bring the balance squarely on the positive side. Instead of long sermons we will hold up our sweaty clothes and sleep deprived eyes, and people will be uplifted. Instead of personal meditation, we will consider the value of helping another person and be inspired.

So many people were involved in this ongoing effort. In addition to some of the people who were already thanked on social media, I want to single out a few individuals that were amazing over these past few days. Leibel, Levi, Sholom, Zalman, Peter, Dotan, Gene, Lou, Nanette, Neil, Chaim, Yosef, Monica, Aaron, Mazal, Sam, Chaim Shlomo, and so many others who helped in so many different ways. We want to thank all the individuals and organizations, local, regional, and national, that continue to partner with us, empower us and enable us to help our fellow Louisianians who are suffering in the aftermath of the storm.

On behalf of our team from Chabad of Louisiana, Chabad of Metairie, Chabad of Baton Rouge, please go to www.chabadneworleans.com/ida to keep the love flowing!

See below for more Hurricane Relief resources and for photos.

Shabbat Shalom and see you in Shul on Rosh Hashanah!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

 

The Generator that Tipped the Scales

A simple wagon driver once saw a carriage filled with people careening down a hill out of control. He ran and jumped on the horse and slowed it down, ultimately bringing them a halt, thereby saving the lives of all the passengers, the driver, and the horses, as well as the carriage. After a nice long life, he passed on and came before the heavenly court. He was a good guy, but he had done some good and some of the opposite. His deeds were placed on the scale, and it was tipping to the wrong side. Suddenly an angel came dragging the lives of the family that he saved. It was still tipping the wrong way. The angel brought the horses, and then the carriage. It was still tipping in the wrong direction. Finally, the angel came dragging the mud that was stuck to the wheels and that tipped the scale for good, earning the wagon driver his ticket to heaven.

Usually, the week before Rosh Hashanah is spent on my own intense spiritual preparations for the upcoming Days of Awe. As a Rabbi, I have the additional obligation to inspire a congregation. With Ida blowing through town, leaving so many in such dire straits, this week was spent on an entirely different set of activities. Rather than study and meditate on the deeper meaning of Rosh Hashanah, we were hooking up generators and distributing fuel. Instead of preparing uplifting sermons, we were bringing cold water, ice, and food to folks around the region, along with a friendly face, a warm word and some cheer. Instead of considering our deeds on judgement day, we were connecting with people making sure they were safe, having them know that someone cares.

I am confident that when our deeds are placed on the scale this year, the generators, the fuel, the ice, the water, the smiles and caring words will bring the balance squarely on the positive side. Instead of long sermons we will hold up our sweaty clothes and sleep deprived eyes, and people will be uplifted. Instead of personal meditation, we will consider the value of helping another person and be inspired.

So many people were involved in this ongoing effort. In addition to some of the people who were already thanked on social media, I want to single out a few individuals that were amazing over these past few days. Leibel, Levi, Sholom, Zalman, Peter, Dotan, Gene, Lou, Nanette, Neil, Chaim, Yosef, Monica, Aaron, Mazal, Sam, Chaim Shlomo, and so many others who helped in so many different ways. We want to thank all the individuals and organizations, local, regional, and national, that continue to partner with us, empower us and enable us to help our fellow Louisianians who are suffering in the aftermath of the storm.

On behalf of our team from Chabad of Louisiana, Chabad of Metairie, Chabad of Baton Rouge, please go to www.chabadneworleans.com/ida to keep the love flowing!

See below for more Hurricane Relief resources and for photos.

Shabbat Shalom and see you in Shul on Rosh Hashanah!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

25th Anniversary Reflections

Yesterday Malkie and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. 25 years is considered a generation. We are very blessed to have merited to raise one generation and witness the start of a new generation of our family during this time.

There are two things that I reflected on in connection with our anniversary, that I would like to share. A wedding marks the beginning of the formation of a new unit, a husband and wife. They build a life together; and they share hopes and dreams of where they want their life to go. On an anniversary, one often contemplates how those shared hopes and dreams are coming along.

As we celebrated our anniversary, surrounded by our family, my thoughts kept returning to a quote from the book Hayom Yom – Nissan 9. “Jewish wealth is not houses and gold. The everlasting Jewish wealth is: Being Jews who keep Torah and Mitzvot, and bringing into the world children and grandchildren who keep Torah and Mitzvot.”

We have much to thankful for to Hashem for this immense wealth with which He has blessed us.

Obviously, a wedding anniversary is a very personal milestone. Yet, as Hillel teaches in Pirkei Avot, “If I am (only) for myself, what am I?” When a couple gets married and starts a life together, they must think about what value their life will contribute to Hashem’s world. In 25 years, how have I advanced the realization of Hashem’s purpose for creation? In 25 years, how has my home and family benefitted others? Can I honestly say that my marriage and family has made a difference, leaving an indelible mark on the world around us? These are the things we must reflect on. Hopefully the answers are positive ones. Furthermore, we look forward to being granted many more healthy and happy years together, during which we can continue and increase in those areas.

May Hashem bless each and every one of you to be inscribed and sealed for a healthy, prosperous, and meaningful year of 5782.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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