ChabadNewOrleans Blog

I will bless those that bless you!

Genesis 12:3 states: “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you." This is the promise that G-d made to Avraham when instructing him to “Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you.”

We live in a time when it has once again become in vogue to assault Jews. There are the insidious ideological attacks by the media, academia and politicians. There are the virulent verbal attacks that are evident during anti-Israel protests and on social media. There are the violent physical attacks on Jews in many parts of the world such as Israel, Europe and even most recently on our own shores in the USA. These assaults must be regarded with all seriousness and confronted on every level.

Yet, despite the doom and gloom, many, indeed, very many members of the nations of the world take that passage from Genesis quite seriously. G-d’s promise to Avraham is the inspiration for pro-Israel and pro-Jewish support from (some perhaps) unexpected places. While anecdotal at best, I would like to share three positive encounters I had this week, all within a span of 15 minutes.

On Monday morning I was returning home together with my son Sholom from our annual conference in NY. We collected our bags and seated ourselves on a bench outside the baggage claim area to wait for our ride. A young African American man was walking by holding the hand a small child. I noticed that he was staring at us intently. He calls out a cheerful good morning to which I respond in kind. As he passes us he asks me if I am Jewish, to which I reply in the positive. He then proceeds to ask me if he can take a picture with me. When I agree he tells me that he has to go get his camera and be back in a few minutes. Upon his departure I hear a chuckle from behind me. I turn around and there is an African American woman smiling at me and asking me where I am from. I tell her I am from New Orleans. She tells me that she is from Brooklyn and she loves living among her many Jewish neighbors. We chat for a few more minutes and then my buddy returns with his camera (phone). He asks a passerby to snap the photo and sits down next to me extending his hand in greeting. We pose for the photo with a handshake and then he thanks me profusely as if it was the biggest honor to have his photo taken with a Jew. I wish him well and he goes about his way. Not ten minutes later I see a middle-aged African American woman walking back and forth as if she is waiting for someone – but she keeps looking at us. Finally she comes over and asks us if she can take a picture of us. She tells us that she is big fan of Matisyahu but she doesn’t like that he cut off his beard. After snapping our picture she tells me that is going to post it on Facebook with the #missingMatisyahu.

So in 15 minutes three African Americans (not that it matters, I am just identifying for accuracy) expressed how much they respect and love Jewish people, especially those that are visibly maintaining their tradition.

As we get closer to the time of Redemption clarity comes to the world. There is an obvious gulf between those that are with us and those that are against us. There are some wonderful people with beautiful hearts and a great love for the people about whom G-d promised “And I will bless those who bless you.” To them I say (as I did to my newfound friends in the airport) thank you and G-d bless you! We look forward to the time in the near future when “they all will call upon the name of G-d and serve Him with one purpose.”

Happy 80th birthday Allen Samuels. Many healthy and prosperous years!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Paying Retail?

My memories of elementary school history tell me that the Dutch purchased Manhattan in 1626 for the equivalent of $24. Historians argue whether or not to peg the price at a little higher. Either way Manhattan was acquired as one of the greatest bargains in history.

Go back several thousand years to another account of land purchase, the acquisition of the Machpelah cave and surrounding land in Chevron by Abraham from Ephron the Hittite. The Torah tells us that Avraham paid 400 silver shekels for the plot of land, a price that far exceeded the actual value of the land. He didn’t haggle or argue for a lower price, even after Ephron went back on an offer to give it to him for free. (May have been the only time that a Jew paid retail, or even higher…)

There are three cities in Israel that our ancestors bought for money, Chevron by Avraham, Shechem by Yaakov and Yerushalayim by King David. Ironically Jewish rights to all three of those cities are hotly contested. Go figure… Unfortunately Biblical accounts of Jewish rights to Israel mean very little to the Arabs, the Europeans and the rest of the world, or sadly, to many Israelis.

The obvious question regarding Avraham’s purchase of the land in Chevron is, if G-d had promised the entire land to him, why bother paying for something that already belongs to you. At this point in Avraham’s life he had already heard this promise multiple times. He also made a quasi-Halachic act of acquisition of the land by walking the length and breadth of it years earlier. It was only that real recognized ownership would not take place until the times of Joshua. But why get ripped off paying for something that is already yours?

The Rebbe explains that this teaches us a valuable lesson. When it comes to matter of holiness free is not a good price. Spiritual growth and closeness to Hashem must be earned. If a person has some innate talents for Torah study or other good things, that should not prevent them from investing further effort into developing those talents even more and getting even closer to Hashem. Something that is free or comes to us without effort is lease appreciated and valued. When we work hard and achieve that is where there can be true appreciation.

I want to remind you again about the Mitzvah drive for Dr. David Kaufmann being run by Chabad of Dorval, QC (Rabbi Shmuel and Rivky Kaufmann). To participate please go to May Hashem grant Dovid Yisrael Ber ben Freida Gisha a complete and speedy recovery!

There are two adult educational opportunities coming up that are open to all. Lunch N Learn Downtown NOLA is coming up this Monday, the topic is Where’s Isaac? A look into the life of the least known Patriarch. Beit Midrash on the Bayou is being held on Thanksgiving morning from 9-11 AM. We will be serving a hot breakfast along with Yeshiva style learning.

The daily morning minyan is at 7 AM (Sunday at 8 AM) at Chabad Uptown. The daily evening minyan (Sunday-Thursday) is at Chabad Metairie – this week at 4:45 PM. Please let us know if you can participate to keep these important traditions strong.

We acknowledge the passing of a friend, Dr. J.E. Isaacson. Heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Isaacson and the family.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

PHD=Papa has dough?

As a society we tend to be wary of someone whose greatness is inherited rather than earned. I have heard wealthy people, whose riches were bequeathed to them, cynically referred to as PHD = Papa had dough. The same for positions of power or other areas of greatness that are not earned but rather inherited. While there may be some validity to the wariness in some instances, certainly this is not the case across the board. There are many who take what they inherited and work hard to maintain or even grow those assets. This is not an easy task and can be regarded as an achievement worthy of admiration.

As Jews we had a very “wealthy” grandfather named Avraham. He achieved the pinnacle of success on so many levels. He was also generous in that he bequeathed all of his greatness to his descendants. Accomplishments that came to Avraham through lifelong effort, we inherit as a matter of course. Yet being a successful heir to greatness is not a walk in the park. Living up to and maintaining that greatness requires hard work and a life of commitment. Let’s take a peek at some the things that Avraham bequeathed to us – the Jewish people.

From Avraham we inherit:

·         A mighty faith in Hashem and His ways in the face of overwhelming challenges.

·         A commitment to kindness and generosity to those that are needy.

·         A burning desire to share the principles and morals of a life devoted to serving G-d with others.

·         A willingness to stand up for what is right even at the risk of personal peril.

·         A powerful love for G-d and fellow man that defines all life decisions.

·         A dedication to Hashem that is greater and more compelling than life itself.

These treasures of Emunah, Chesed, Mesirut Nefesh, Ahavah and so forth make up the wealth that we inherit from our father Avraham. So you be cynical and call us PHDs. But we know that living up to being worthy of these treasures requires much effort and lifelong commitment. At the same time, we must acknowledge how lucky we are to have been given this amazing heritage and, more importantly, take advantage of it to the fullest degree.

Chabad of Dorval, Quebec is directed by Rabbi Shmuel and Rivky Kaufmann. Shmuel is a New Orleanian, son of Dr. David and Nechama Kaufmann. They have launched a Mitzvah drive in merit of Dr. David Kaufmann. To participate please go to May Hashem grant Dovid Yisrael Ber ben Freida Gisha a complete and speedy recovery!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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