ChabadNewOrleans Blog

Food Still Falls From Heaven

A Yeshiva student meets with his prospective father-in-law for the first time to ask for his daughter’s hand. The father asks “what do you intend to do after your marriage?” The young man replies, “I would like to continue studying.” The father questions, “What about a livelihood?” “G-d will provide” answers the young man. “How will you support my daughter?” “G-d will provide.” “Do you plan to have kids? How will they eat?” “Of course, G-d will provide.” A few minutes later the father slips out of the room to talk to his wife. She asks, “Nu, what do you think about him?” He replies, “Nice kid. He hasn’t got a clue about life, but already three times he referred to me as G-d.”

This week we read about the Manna that G-d sent to the Jewish people during their 40 year sojourn in the desert. This miraculous food literally fell from heaven each day providing the people with all of their food needs. What blessing does one make over before eating Manna? Hamotzi Lechem Min Hashamayim – Who brings forth bread from the heaven. This is very similar to the blessing we make over bread – Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha’aretz – Who brings forth bread from the earth.

This similarity is very significant. Ultimately a person of faith recognizes that parnassa – livelihood comes from Hashem. The difference is that for the Jews in the desert this notion was directly obvious, whereas for us Hashem’s blessing travels through natural channels (the work of the farmer, the miller, the baker and the individual’s work that generates the income to purchase the food). The Talmud talks of the faithful farmer who expresses his belief that it is all from Hashem as he plants and harvests. The same could be said of the laborer, businessman or professional who plies his trade in earnest, while recognizing that it is merely a vehicle for Hashem’s blessing.

The challenge of the natural order is to connect the dots properly and see the truth behind the façade. For some this is more challenging when the going gets rough, for others it is more challenging when times are good. Either way, both those that are successful and those that struggle would be more serene if they truly acknowledged that it is all from Hashem.

This coming Monday there is a unique rally for Israel at the UNO amphitheater - organized by Chloe Valdary – a young black UNO student, who is generating a storm of positive interest and support for Israel. It is called Declare Your Freedom – and info can be found at Among the featured speakers is Daniel Pipes, a renowned Israel advocate. I am looking forward to participating and I hope they get a good crowd.

The Purim Shuttle has left the bus depot. Hop aboard and send your friends lovely Purim gifts while supporting Chabad’s work. Go to and use the login info that was provided in the Purim Shuttle email. Happy clicking.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


How to view a fellow Jew

This past week the Jewish Federation launched their year-long centennial celebration with a wonderful event. The event had a few nice touches – including the second line with Panorama Jazz Band and Bill Hess’s great impersonation of his great-grandfather Julius Rosenwald. I thoroughly enjoyed the dialogue between Richard Stone and Josef Telushkin. Congratulations to the Federation for 100 of years of important work in our community. Best wishes for another 100 years of success in supporting the vital institutions of our New Orleans Jewish community.

After the event we stood around chatting with Richard Stone and Rabbi Telushkin, who shared some of the book that he was writing about the Rebbe. Richard Stone is also a personal friend of our family spanning three generations. He and I were reminiscing about his late brother David, whom I admired greatly. We marveled at the fact that though David Stone appeared to be a completely secular Jew, there were some very deeply religious and spiritual elements about him. Richard commented to me that in the course of Chabad’s work we surely have the opportunity to witness many similar phenomena of a Jewish Neshamah bursting through at unexpected times in unexpected people.

As I thought about Richard’s words it dawned on me that this is one of the unique ideas that the Rebbe taught us. Most people assume that there are two ways of looking at another person. The first, a superficial perspective, is seeing the other as they appear in the present, with all of their failings. The second, a deeper perspective, is seeing the other for what they could become in the future. The risk of the second view is that the potential may never be realized. The Rebbe taught that there is a third way. Seeing the person in the present – but as they truly are in their essence. The true core of a Jew is the essential bond with Hashem. This transcends time and circumstances. We must gaze deeply into the soul to recognize it – but once we do we are witness to an infinite reservoir of holiness, spirituality and goodness.

This Monday is the 10th of Shevat – the day the Rebbe assumed the leadership of Chabad upon the passing of his father-in-law in 1950. As we mark 63 years of the Rebbe’s inspiration, guidance and direction – teaching us to look beneath the surface as we perceive people, history, current events and the Torah, it is a proper time to reflect on how we are implementing the Rebbe’s vision of a good and G-dly world, which will be realized during the era of the final Redemption.

On Sunday night at Chabad of Metairie a dinner and farbrengen is being held at 6:30 PM to mark this important day. A guest lecturer, Rabbi Mendel Samuels of CT, will be speaking on the topic: Can Morality Be Man-made? Please join us for the celebration.

 Our condolences to Toni Weiss upon the passing of her mother Lynn Strauss. May Hashem comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


Purim Theme, Recovery Retreat and more

Purim is officially only six weeks out and preparations are in full swing at Chabad for all of the Purim 2013 celebrations. The committee met last week and determined that this year’s theme for the Grand Purim Feast is ……………… a Rockin’ Moroccan Purim. The menu, décor, entertainment and hopefully the costumes will be Moroccan themed. We are looking forward to a great Purim celebration.

After another successful Purim Shuttle last year, we are ready to roll out Purim Shuttle 2013. You should be receiving the first email next week and the mailing will follow. Purim Shuttle is a win, win, win. You win by fulfilling the mitzvah of sending a Purim gift to a friend. Your friend wins by receiving the lovely Purim gift. We all win by using the Purim Shuttle to support Chabad of Louisiana.

There are issues about which the Jewish community has taken a while to honestly explore – perhaps longer than the rest of society. One of those areas is addiction and recovery. Chabad nationally has been involved in assisting with addiction and recovery since the late 70s early 80s. In recent years the pace has picked up and last year an annual retreat Shabbaton was launched in South Florida for people and families in recovery. This year’s retreat will be held in Boca Raton from Feb 8-10. Featured speakers include Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski and Rabbi Yosef Y. Jacobson. For more information: Please share this with anyone who may benefit from this vitally important event.

This week I met with a pair of local university students who are coordinating a special rally for Israel – called Declare Your Freedom. It is being held on January 28 @ 12 noon – at the UNO amphitheater. The rally will emphasize the importance of standing with Israel as Americans who have the same shared values. It will also highlight the growing trends in anti-Semitism around the world and calls on the community to get involved in combating this phenomenon. The keynote speaker is Daniel Pipes, of the Middle East Forum. More information will follow.

Our heartfelt condolences go to Evelyn Rodos, Devvie Harris and Marlene Trestman upon the passing of their mother, Mrs. Lillian Rodos. I have known Mrs. Rodos for many years. When Malkie and I moved to New Orleans in 1998, Lillian, an avid French Quarter enthusiast, gave us an original painting of a French Quarter Courtyard, which hangs in our kitchen to this day.

Mrs. Rodos had a great sense of humor, which provided an interesting twist to her love for Jewish tradition. Over the years we had many interesting interactions. Two anecdotes come to mind. Some ten years ago, Torah Academy held a fundraiser auction. Lillian donated another of her original paintings (a French Quarter courtyard no less) for the live auction. She was somewhat skeptical about how much it would bring in as she didn’t regard herself as a world class artist. Boy was she surprised when a bidding war broke out over her painting and it ended up being the biggest ticket item that evening.

After Katrina, Mrs. Rodos and her daughter Evelyn asked me to install some new Mezuzahs on her French Quarter home. After showing me around her house we got down to Mezuzah business and got all the doors covered. The one challenge was the front gate. It was designed in a way that neither nails or strong tape would be effective in keeping the Mezuzah up. It became a big issue until I went and got some liquid nails (a very powerful adhesive). Several times she called me to say that it had fallen down and I went back to get it back up. I think in the end the elements (human and weather) prevailed and the Mezuzah was yanked down by some drunk walking through the quarter.

May Hashem comfort her daughters among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


Recycled or New

I have heard it declared “go green in 2013.” While recycling may be good for many things, there are still some things that are better if they are brand new. The great Kabbalists teach that most souls that come into the world these days (we are talking 500 years ago) are recycled. This is known in Kabbala as gilgulim or reincarnation. The great Arizal (Rabbi Isaac Luria - 16th century Kabbalist from Tzfat) was said to be a reincarnation of Moses. The Baal Shemtov was told that his soul came from a hidden tzaddik who died centuries earlier without anyone knowing of his greatness. Souls come back either because they have to undergo a Tikkun – repair, or because they have more to accomplish in the world. Very rarely a new soul, which has previously never been in a body, comes to the world. It would appear that in order to accomplish something that is very revolutionary, the freshness and purity of a soul that has never tasted this world is required.

In 1745 he Baal Shemtov told his students that a new soul would be born to one of them. Twelve days before Rosh Hashanah he declared that the child had been born. Privately he had informed his Chassid Reb Baruch that he and his wife Rivkah would be the parents of this special child and he instructed them in great detail as to how to care for and raise the child. Ironically he said that the child should not be told or taught about the Baal Shemtov or his teachings. He wanted this soul to discover the path to Chassidus on his own accord at a later time. The Baal Shemtov said that the child’s name was Schneur – which means “two lights” in Hebrew. This was an indication that he would illuminate the world with the light of Torah – in both the revealed (Talmud and Halacha) as well as the esoteric areas of Torah.

Indeed this child with new soul grew up and made major contributions in the area of Halacha by writing an updated edition of the Code of Jewish Law. But his greatest contribution – one in which he radically altered the way the inner-spiritual dimensions of Torah would be accessible to every single person – came in the form of the Tanya. This new soul was Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi – founder of the Chabad Chassidic movement and author of the Tanya, among his many other works.

This Saturday night marks 200 years since his passing. The Alter Rebbe, as he is known to Chassidim, was both a great thinker and a pragmatic activist. He established, organized and propelled a movement forward that continues to have far reaching influence on Jewish life and thought until this very day. To learn more about Rabbi Schneur Zalman and his teachings visit Last year Israel issued a commemorative stamp in his honor depicting

The Alter Rebbe’s passing occurred on a Saturday night following Parshat Shemot just a few hours after he made Havdala. Here in New Orleans we will mark this occasion with a Meleva Malka (post-Shabbat meal) held at the home of Uzzi and Rivka Kehaty. Our gathering will feature the teachings, stories and melodies of the Alter Rebbe. Please let us know if you would like to participate.

Condolences to the family of Ben Katz, a Jewish War Veteran and longtime member of the New Orleans Jewish community. As a fellow Kohen, we spent time together standing outside the fence at funerals. I also had the privilege of duchening (offering the Priestly blessing) together with Mr. Katz at Anshe Sfard over the years.

Please also see the article featured below about my grandmother –

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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