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No Chance to Sin

When speaking of the Mitzvah of the Lulav and Etrog, the Torah states “and you shall take for yourselves on the first day.” The Talmud defines the first day (of Sukkot) as the first day in the reckoning of sins. Since we achieve atonement on Yom Kippur for our sins, a new account is started for the new year. What about the four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot; couldn’t sins be committed on those days? The Talmud concludes that one does not have the opportunity to sin because there is so much to do in preparation for the holiday of Sukkot. “This one is busy with his Sukkah, this one is busy with his Lulav.”

These four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot are also referred to as Gott’s Nomen (Yiddish for G-d’s name) as each of the four days corresponds to another letter in the Tetragrammaton. In other words we are in a very special time now, still operating under the glow of holiness from Yom Kippur and eagerly preparing for the most joyous season in the Jewish calendar – the Festival of Sukkot/Simchat Torah.

The holiday of Sukkot is one of the times when we can really see how far Judaism has come in New Orleans. When I was a child there were not a lot of families that had a Sukkah or even their own Lulav and Etrog set. Now we see Sukkahs popping up everywhere and I love the sight of people streaming to Shul on Sukkot holding their Lulav and Etrog sets.

I consider it my privilege to offer the use of my Lulav and Etrog to someone that does not have their own and would like to do the Mitzvah. Please let me know if you would like to take me up on that offer.

Of course Sukkot is also the opening act for the ultimate in joyous celebration – Simchat Torah. Simchat Torah is my favorite holiday of the year. Simchat Torah at Chabad is very special and I invite you all to come and celebrate with us uptown or in Metairie on Monday night, October 8.

In the meantime, enjoy the Sukkot prep frenzy and your time off from sins.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Getting the Message

An elderly man, who had not accessed his bank account for many years, sent his grandson to make a withdrawal. The bank manager calls to ask for his account password, to which he replies, “Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Huey, Dewey, Louie, Baton Rouge.” The smiling banker inquires as to the origin of this original password, to which the old man replies, “They told me I needed a password that had seven characters and one capital.”

Clearly the elderly man did not get the message. We are currently in middle of the Days of Awe. During a season such as this one we must ask ourselves if we are “getting the message.” Many people resolve to do things different for the coming year. This is a wonderful practice. However, we must consider carefully what kind of resolutions we take upon ourselves in light of the time in which we find ourselves.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are days that are meant to be focused on our relationship with Hashem. On Rosh Hashanah we coronate Hashem as our king (Malkeinu) and on Yom Kippur we highlight the special intensity of our deep connection to Hashem. Chasidism teaches that Neilah (closing) means that the doors of heaven close, leaving us inside alone with G-d.

May I therefore suggest that our resolutions take on the nature of the times? In addition to resolving to be more health conscious, less stressed, increase family ties, less scattered etc., let us also and more importantly resolve to pay more attention to prayer, Torah study and Mitzvah observance. In doing so, we will find that many of the other matters begin to fall into place as well.

May Hashem seal us all for a year of health, happiness, prosperity and meaning!

Mazel Tov to Julie and Jim Gillis and family upon the birth of their daughter Tamar Elisheva!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Like the love of parents for their child

Many wonder how we can celebrate Rosh Hashanah if it is a judgment day. Festive meals, holiday clothing and other signs of celebration seem to be out of place. The Baal Shemtov explains that G-d’s love for us is so profound that we can be certain of a positive outcome of the judgment. He illustrated this by way of a parable. The greatest scholar in town, named Yankel, spends most of his time in study. In particular, Yankel likes to study from memory because this requires him to concentrate even more. When Yankel’s son comes to him in middle of his studies and wants to share an idea or a thought, he not only interrupts his study to listen, he also does so with great pleasure. Even though Yankel’s wisdom far exceeds that of his little boy, still his love for the child allows him to take pleasure even in his small accomplishments.  

So to, explains the Baal Shemtov, Hashem’s love for His people is so great that their smallest accomplishments make Him proud. When the angels questioned G-d’s desire to create man, saying that humans would be limited and filled with faults, G-d replies by proudly pointing out how much they will achieve despite the challenges they face to get through life. This love motivates us to celebrate Rosh Hashanah with the confidence that Hashem will inscribe and seal us for a good and sweet year.

This should also motivate us to view our fellow Jew as the object of G-d’s love and therefore deserving of being treated as such. When G-d sees us treating each other with love and caring – that further infuses Him with joy and gives greater impetus to grant us all of our needs and desires for the good.

Chabad’s open door policy is in affect for the High Holidays and all year round. All are welcome to come and join us for any or all of the services. For a complete schedule please see www.chabadneworleans.com/calendar.

May Hashem grant each and every one us a good, sweet, healthy, prosperous and meaningful new year of 5773, and may this be the year in which we finally experience what humanity has waited for since the dawn of time – the complete and final redemption!

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

The Rebbe as Matchmaker

Malkie and I just got off of an airplane returning from Los Angeles where we participated in the wedding of Akiva (Wyatt) and Channah Hall. It was a wonderful celebration that we were honored to be a part of. A nice contingent of New Orleans connected folks were in attendance. Of course lively Yeshiva students made it a very joyous affair. I would like to share a thought that I mentioned during a toast that was offered at the reception. How could a boy from the Mississippi Gulf Coast and a girl from Bakersfield, CA find each other and marry? What they had in common is that they both got involved at a Chabad House. As a result, their respective Chabad Shluchim networked and connected them. So in effect the Rebbe was their matchmaker. The Rebbe’s vision of sending families to live in places throughout the world to operate Chabad Houses, brought Akiva and Channah together. Rabbi Schlenger (Chabad of Bakersfield) and I reflected on this very idea as we watched the dancing with Nachas. Mazel tov to Akiva, Channah and the Hall and Black families and the respective Chabad communities of which they are a part.

Saturday night marks the beginning of Selichot – the series of prayers recited each morning from now until Rosh Hashanah. As is the Chabad custom we prepare for Selichot, which begins at 1 AM – with a rousing farbrengen to put us in the joyous yet serious frame of mind needed for Selichot.

This coming Tuesday Chabad of Metairie hosts an evening with David Nessenof. He is the Rabbi that confronted Helen Thomas on video during which she declared that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go back to Germany and Poland where they came from.” He has a fascinating story to share of how those “15 minutes of fame” transformed his life. His talk will begin at 7 PM on Tuesday, September 11 @ Chabad Metairie. For registration or more info, go to www.jewishlouisiana.com.

On Wednesday night the rescheduled Kabbala for Young Professionals is taking place at Sandy Cohen’s home – for more info http://www.facebook.com/events/361363517279366.

Chabad Metairie’s Hebrew (Sunday) School is beginning this Sunday @ 10 am. Chabad Hebrew School is open to all Jewish children ages 5-10, not just synagogue members. To register or for more info, please contact Rabbi Nemes at rabbi@jewishlouisiana.com or 504-957-4986.

Chabad’s Shofar Factory kicked off the weekend before the hurricane at the Northshore Jewish Congregation. See below for photos. Additional workshops are being offered to children and seniors this coming week.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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