ChabadNewOrleans Blog

Living with the Times

Once Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the first Chabad Rebbe, declared, "One must live with the times." What he meant was that one must live with the weekly Torah portion. One should not only learn the weekly parsha every day, but live with it. Bereishit is a cheerful parsha, even though its ending is not all that pleasant. Noach has the Flood, but the week ends on a happy note with the birth of our father Avraham. The really joyous week is that of Lech L'cha. We live every day of the week with Avraham, the first to dedicate his very life to spreading G-dliness in the world. And Avraham bequeathed his self-sacrifice as an inheritance to all Jews. (Hayom Yom – Cheshvan 2-3)

One could ask, Lech L’cha also has unpleasant matters such as the battle that Avraham had to fight to free his nephew Lot, as well as the disagreement that brought about their separation to begin with. Yet the entire Parsha is called a joyous one, because it deals with Avraham, a person whose life was dedicated to serving Hashem and teaching others about the belief in Him. When you read about Avraham even his challenges are inspiring to us. The heroes of Bereishit and Noach took care of themselves but didn’t do much for the world. Avraham was precious to Hashem because He knew that Avraham taught and inspired others and would bequeath a legacy of teaching and inspiring to his descendants.

In the teachings of Chassidus there are few Biblical characters that are regarded as highly as Avraham. The example Avraham set of reaching out to others despite great personal sacrifice serves as a model of inspiration that is heavily featured throughout Chassidic thought. Those who walk by the light of these teachings aspire to live a life like Avraham, whereby seeing that another person has the opportunity to connect to Hashem is as valuable as one’s own connection to Hashem. Therefore “living with times” when those times feature Avraham, is truly a joyous week.

Mazel tov to the entire Bart family upon being honored by the JEF for their tremendous philanthropic work in our New Orleans Jewish community and the leadership they demonstrate in supporting our Jewish institutions. Buddy and his family and Vivian and her family are a source of pride to their parents and we at Chabad are honored to be associated with them as friends and supporters of our work.

Heartfelt condolences to Peter Seltzer, his mother Natalie and their family upon the untimely passing of Dr. Benjamin Seltzer. May Hashem comfort you amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and may your care and concern for Jewish New Orleans be a merit for your father’s soul.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

The Torah has a take on everything

Our sages in Ethics of our Fathers say regarding the Torah: “Delve and delve into it, for all is in it.” Torah scholars have derived much practical wisdom for daily living from the Torah’s teachings.

After his marriage, the first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman, lived in Vitebsk. The Governor of Vitebsk had a sundial, which for some time had failed to show the correct time between two and five in the afternoon. The governor consulted experts and professors but none of them could solve the puzzle. Having heard of the young Rabbi’s great knowledge he summoned him to come. The Rebbe inspected the sundial three or four times, during the hours when it was working, and also when it was not working. After completing his investigation, he said: "The Talmud states that at midday the sun is directly overhead; thus, nothing except the clouds can obscure it. But in the afternoon, when the sun shifts westward, it is possible for certain objects to block the sun's rays." He estimated that there was a tall hill about twelve to fifteen miles to the south, with tall trees growing on the hilltop. During those hours, they were blocking the sun's rays from reaching the sundial. The governor ordered an inspection of the areas twelve and fifteen miles south of his estate, to see whether there was indeed a hill with trees at its top.

However, Professor Marseille - Dean of the academy, and a renowned physicist - scoffed at the Rebbe's theory, saying: "The Jewish people are an amazing nation. They seem to know everything from the Talmud. Zelig the physician learned his medicine from the Talmud. Baruch the gardener learned how to improve the soil from the Talmud. And now, this young prodigy has discovered in the Talmud how the sun's rays reach the sundial!"

To this, the Rebbe replied, "Actual demonstrations serve as an axe to cut down those who are haughty with their knowledge of science." "Does this saying also appear in your Talmud?" asked the professor. "No," replied the Rebbe. "This saying comes from the Greek sage Galen, who applied it to the arrogant folk whose knowledge of science did not reach an elevated level."

They discovered a tall hill with very tall trees growing at its top and cut down the trees. The sundial began to work correctly again.

Over the past months we have enjoyed a series of classes downtown that shared the Torah’s perspective on various issues related to the election. We covered taxes, immigration, wealth sharing, healthcare and now we will deal with campaign finance reform. It has been a fascinating experience to discover the layers of wisdom contained in the Torah regarding these matters. Please join us for lunch next Tuesday, October 23 at 12 noon for the final class of the series at New York Camera – 705 Canal St.

The new six part JLI course entitled the Kabbala of You is kicking off on October 30 at Chabad Center in Metairie. From the course overview, “Bringing light to what it is that makes you YOU, will enable you to discover new depths of meaning that will have an impact on every aspect of your existence. Joy, contentment, courage, self-control, a meaningful relationship with G-d, beautiful relationships with others—these are some of the benefits of being in sync with your deepest self.” For more info

We express our deepest condolences to the Galler family upon the passing of Mr. Henry Galler.

Mazel Tov to Emily Nykaza and Jonathan Lissaur upon their upcoming marriage.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


A Tale of Two Chanochs

In the first Parsha of the Torah we read about two men named Chanoch (Enoch). One comes from good stock (Seth the third son of Adam). The other comes from a shady background – his father (Cain) murdered his brother and became a wanderer. Yet the “good” Chanoch ends up becoming an ascetic - a holy man - who contributes nothing to society and even has to be removed from earth at the tender age of 365 so that the corruption of the world does not change him. While the “bad” Chanoch has a city built in his honor and he develops into a builder – one who is very productive and valuable to society.

We can learn several things from this. Firstly that a person’s background does not solely determine how they will end up. We must never give up on the kids from the “bad” environments. Secondly, that being spiritual for oneself without trying to influence the surrounding environment should be considered a failing. Furthermore, if one is not in output mode in terms of influencing society, then they become susceptible to absorbing the negative influences of their environment.

The ideal way is a balance – a holy man and a builder - where the spirituality inspires and uplifts the pragmatism, which in turn serves to propel the spirituality toward a realized goal. As we depart from the holiday month of Tishrei, we must strive to incorporate the inspiration and spirituality of the holidays into our world building endeavors of the rest of the year.

Next Sunday night at Chabad Uptown we will be hosting a wine tasting with Ricardo Kasisnsky – a rep of the world’s largest Kosher wine company, Royal Wine. Their fifty brands include, Baron Herzog, Bartenura, Alfasi, Kedem, Jeunesse, Rashi, and Barkan just to name a few. Please join us for an evening of Kosher delight.

Mazel Tov to Rabbi Mendel and CM Ceitlin upon the birth of their son, whose Bris will be this Shabbat. Mazel tov to the proud grandparents, Rabbi Yossie and Chanie Nemes.

Mazel Tov to Anna and Ken Levin upon the birth of their daughter, Julia Rose.

Condolences to the Saltz family upon the passing of Hyman Ellis Saltz.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

The Deeper the Love, the Greater the Joy

They say that men are like parking spaces at the mall; the good ones are taken and the ones that are available, nobody wants.

A good relationship between husband and wife could be divided into three categories. The first is when the wife asks for something, he does it happily. The second is that she merely has to hint to him and he already gets it. The third is when he anticipates what she wants without her having to even hint to him. Often, the deeper the love is between them, the greater his ability is to anticipate what she wants.

The holiday that we are celebrating has all three of these elements within the joy and celebration of our relationship with G-d. The first level is the joy of the festival – where the Torah explicitly tells us “and you shall rejoice.” The second level is the joy of Simchat Beit Hashoavah (the joy associated with the water libations in Temple times). The Torah merely alludes to this celebration by adding the three Hebrew letters that make up the word Mayim – water - into the passages dealing with the Sukkot offerings.

The third level is the joy of Simchat Torah. As my buddy LJ Goldstein put it, “there is no verse that says ‘Thou shalt be happy on Simchat Torah.’” Simchat Torah is not even hinted to in any verse of the Torah. It is a custom instituted by the prophets. Yet in our liturgy we say that all of our greats from Abraham to Moses to Elijah celebrated Simchat Torah. This is because their relationship to Hashem was so deep that they anticipated without being told. Therefore Simchat Torah is the most joyous celebration of the year.

I may have mentioned that it is also my favorite holiday as well. At Chabad Simchat Torah is really taken to the next level. I encourage you to come to Chabad Uptown or Metairie and join in this awesome joyous celebration on Monday night and Tuesday morning. In addition to all the dancing there are two things I want to highlight. On Monday night after Hakafot we encourage all of the men and boys turn a summersault during the singing of Aleinu. On Tuesday during the Torah reading all little boys under Bar Mitzvah will be called to the Torah for a special Aliyah called “kul ha’ne’arim.”


I look forward to celebrating with you.

Happy Sukkot and Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.