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Deja Vu - All over again

Yogi Berra’s famous redundancy “déjà vu – all over again” is actually applicable sometimes. In February of 1976 the fledgling Chabad of Louisiana purchased a property on Freret St. The first function held in the newly acquired facility was a Purim event. 12 years later, in 1988, the first function held in the facility at the tail end of an extensive renovation was a Purim event. Fast forward to 2013, Chabad is now at the tail end of a complete overhaul of the very same facility on Freret St. Just as in 1988, there is still some work left to be done. But it appears that this Chabad House and Purim have some kind of serious relationship going. Once again the inaugural (or preview) event will be a Purim party.

This time it will be a double whammy. A party on Purim eve (Saturday, Feb 23 @ 7:30 PM) for the general community, and a party on Purim day (Sunday, Feb 24 @ 11 AM) for Young Jewish Professionals. After getting our fill of Purim partying in New Orleans, we will make our way out to Metairie for Chabad of Louisiana’s grand Purim feast – A Rockin’ Moroccan Purim (5:30 PM). Please join us at some or all of Chabad’s Purim events.

The Rockin’ Moroccan Purim event features Sephardic singer Yossi Nahmias on the Bouzouki, Moroccan décor and cuisine, a masquerade for adults and a full children’s program. For more information or to register: www.jewishlouisiana.com/2121817.

The Purim Brunch and Pub Quiz for Young Jewish Professionals features a Megillah reading, delicious food and Purim drinks, Matt Berman on the guitar, and a Pub Quiz with a Purim twist. For more info: www.facebook.com/events/348006685313774.

The Megillah Reading and Purim Bash on Saturday night (similar event being held at Chabad Metairie) features a Megillah reading accompanied by an animated Megillah cartoon, delicious food and Purim drinks, camaraderie and Purim celebration.

On Sunday there will be Megillah readings at 8:30 AM (both locations), 10 AM (Metairie), 11 AM (Lambeth House), 11:30 AM (Young Professionals event), 12:30 PM (Chabad Student Center), 4:30 PM (Chabad Student Center) 5 PM (Metairie).

Mazel Tov to Saadya and Chaya Sarah Kaufmann and David and Nechama Kaufmann upon the upshernish of their son (grandson) Yaakov.

Wishing you Shabbat Shalom and a very joyous Purim!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Purim = Jewish Mardi Gras? Not quite!

As New Orleans enjoys yet another weekend of parading, many are quick to draw a comparison between Mardi Gras and Purim. However, the external similarities of costumes, merriment and some imbibing are where the comparison comes to a swift end.

Purim is a holiday rich in spiritual meaning with layer upon layer of deep significance that serves as a source of inspiration throughout Jewish life and thought. I would like to share one example. The sages of the Talmud state the at the time of Mordechai and Esther the Jewish people displayed a commitment to G-d and His Torah that was greater than they had at Mt. Sinai. To the extent, that the Talmud describes Purim as the final step in the Jewish people’s acceptance of the Torah, which had been left incomplete at Sinai for various reasons.

What was the great dedication that was on display during the Purim story that renders it greater than Sinai? The answer is Mesirut Nefesh – self-sacrifice. The entire Jewish nation was threatened with annihilation by Haman and his minions. For almost a year the threat of a “final solution” hung over their heads. A simple declaration by any Jew “that he was no longer a part of this people” would have saved him from this threat. Yet, not a single Jew even entertained the thought disassociating himself from his people and G-d for the sake of saving his life. This connection to Hashem touches the very core of the Jew and therefore he is willing to risk death rather than to be severed from Hashem.

This powerful connection to G-d that was evoked during the Purim story was deeper than the one that was on display at Sinai when we said Na’aseh V’nishma (we will do and then listen). The lesson for us – who are blessed to live in a time when we are not persecuted for our Jewishness – is that we must strive to see to it that our Jewishness takes on the same sense of urgency during good times as it did during the tough times. When we live in this heightened state of G-d consciousness, the allures of a society of plenty will not distract us from our dedication just as the threats of persecution did not during the difficult times.

Purim is two weeks away. Here is a sampling of Purim related activities offered by Chabad of Louisiana.

Kabbala and Dinner for young Jewish professionals: Monday, Feb 18 @ 8 PM. Topic:  A Purim Murder Mystery. For more info: www.facebook.com/events/333294240114778.  

Lunch N Learn Downtown NOLA: Tuesday, Feb 19 @ 12 PM. Topic: Hidden, Yet Everywhere – the absence of G-d’s name from the book of Esther. For more info: www.chabadneworleans.com/1725755. This month’s class is sponsored by Dotan Bonen.

Megillah Reading and Purim Bash: Saturday, Feb 23 @ 7:30 PM – Chabad Uptown and Chabad Metairie will both be hosting simultaneously. Come in costume! Refreshments and Purim fun!

Purim Brunch and Pub Quiz for Young Jewish Professionals: Sunday, Feb 24 @ 11 AM – Chabad Uptown. For more info: www.facebook.com/events/348006685313774.

A Rockin’ Moroccan Purim Feast: Sunday, Feb 24 @ 5:30 PM – Chabad Metairie Casbah. Chabad of Louisiana’s grand Purim event features sefardic singer, Yossi Nahmias in concert, Moroccan cuisine and décor, a masquerade for adults and a special program and contest for kids. For more info or to rsvp: www.jewishlouisiana.com/2121817.

For all of your Purim study, info and how to, please see www.chabadneworleans.com/purim.

We look forward to celebrating with you!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Who wears the skirt in this house

While most of this country will be glued to the TV watching the Superbowl, a powerful group of women will be otherwise occupied at an event that is intended to supply them with inspiration, renewal and rejuvenation. I refer to the International Conference of Shluchos (Chabad female emissaries) being held in New York this weekend, in conjunction with the 25th Yahrtzeit of the Rebbe’s wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson.

These women are those with whom the Rebbe entrusted a double mission. On one hand they are partners with their husbands in directing institutions and coordinating activities and programs in their respective communities. Yet they have an equally sacred, if not more so, task of caring for the next generation of soldiers in the army of Hashem. They defy all of the myths and misconceptions about religious Jewish women being relegated to second class status. Not only are they leaders in the communities, but they occupy that role while bearing and caring for large families. Had King Solomon met a Chabad Shlucha he would have felt obligated to add a few additional verses to his ode to the Woman of Valor.

In many societies there is a question about “who wears the pants in the house.” In our homes it is about “who wears the skirt in the house.” And if this weekend is any indication, it is a moot question. Somehow the women are able to juggle all their roles and still keep the home running smoothly (with ample help from their husbands of course). They go away for a few days and the nutrition level goes down in the house, kids don’t see a fruit or vegetable in their lunch bag, matching clothes is optional, phone messages are ignored and there is an all-around void in the house. My kids had a meltdown the first night that Malkie was away – I want Mommy right now – don’t bother explaining that she won’t be back until next week. But in case any of them are reading this… don’t worry – we will clean up and brush the kids teeth before you return!

We are certain that they will return with new ideas, fresh inspiration, and ready to roll on to the next project, event or activity. We will gladly relinquish your role as Akeres Habayis (the foundation of the home) back to you, and I think the kids would rather like that as well.

We are very saddened to report about the passing of Rabbi Amram Gozlan this week. Amram was a patient at Ochsner awaiting a liver transplant. For medical reasons he returned to Israel with the hope of coming back to Ochnser when the time was right. Alas that time will not come. He inspired us all with his strong faith and humble manner, despite being a very accomplished scholar. We give his wife and family our heartfelt wishes of comfort and condolence.

The Purim Shuttle is in high gear. Log in at www.chabadneworleans.com/purimproject.

Preparations for a Rockin’ Moroccan Purim are well underway. Look out for the card and emails and join the Facebook campaign at http://www.facebook.com/events/494493640593093/.

As New Orleans is in full gear hosting the Superbowl, have a good weekend and Shabbat Shalom. Enjoy the newly paved roads and completed construction downtown. It was a pleasure driving around!

Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

 

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