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Really Believing

Passover is a holiday from which it takes a long to time to rebound. All of the hard work and preparation as well as the many days of prayer and feasting leave their mark in many ways. Spiritually we hope that we can enjoy the radiance and lessons of Passover for a long time to come. One of the themes of Pesach is using the exodus from Egypt as a channel through which to reflect on our future redemption. Indeed on the last day of Passover we read Isaiah’s prophecy about Moshiach as the Haftara. The Baal Shemtov famously described the eighth day of Pesach as a time in which “the light of Moshiach shines powerfully.”

In the well-known Ani Maamin series, based on Maimonides’ 13 principles of faith, we say regarding Moshiach, “I await his coming every day.” In our daily Amidah we declare, “Your salvation we eagerly anticipate the entire day.” What does it mean to be in a state of waiting or eager anticipation?

“Out of the mouth of babes” goes the old adage based on Psalms. Last week I observed what waiting for Moshiach means to a young child. During Pesach our seven year old daughter, Hinda, shared with us the following experience she had. In New York many Jewish neighborhoods have a very loud siren that is sounded just before the onset of Shabbat and holidays to remind people to cease activity that is prohibited on Shabbat and light the candles. Hinda and her five year old brother Mordechai were playing right before Shabbat when the siren went off. Their immediate reaction was that they were hearing the Shofar blast that heralds the coming of Moshiach and the era of redemption was being ushered in. To these children waiting for and anticipating Moshiach’s coming was so real that they could not conceive of any other purpose for the loud noise. If only we could incorporate some of that child-like sincerity into our lives.

Mazal Tov to Paula George and Allen Samuels upon their recent marriage. Many long healthy years together!

Over Pesach our community suffered the loss of a dear friend, Dr. Stuart Haas or as we knew him, Shmuel Leib ben Yitzchak.

I met Dr. Haas in 1998 when I became the Rabbi at Anshe Sfard. When we started to the adult education programs at the Shul he was one of the stalwarts, attending almost everyone. He also attended many lectures and events at Chabad. He welcomed every opportunity to learn and enrich his knowledge and experience of the religion to which he proudly belonged. Stuart loved being called to the Torah by his Hebrew name and once a year he read a Haftara that he knew very well. 

Dr. Haas had a particular affinity for my young children. So much so that after I left the Synagogue to assume my duties at Chabad House, he used to come on many a Sabbath just to be around the children. They sensed his love and they returned the affection. He used to remind my son Sholom nearly every time he saw him, "remember to invite me to your Bar Mitzvah." In a recent email exchange he told me how he was looking forward to attending the Bar Mitzvah which is to take place on May 4. Alas my dear friend Stuart will be with us, but only in spirit. 

He was a man who cared deeply about Jewish causes and he supported them generously. He loved seeing Jewish children who were involved and committed to Judaism. He felt uplifted and inspired when he was around them. He was a good man who was kind and considerate. He was a warm Jew with a special heart. Farewell my friend Stuart, Shmuel Leib ben Yitzchak. You will not be forgotten - you are in our hearts. May your soul be bound up with the bond of Eternal Life - our Living G-d forever.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

G-d's Gift to the World

We often hear the phrase "G-d's gift to the world" bandied about. Aside from the essential value of every person as a gift from G-d, there are few people about whom it can be said that their life is so transformative that they are truly G-d's gift to the world.

On this day in 1902 no fewer than six telegrams arrived at a home in Nikolayev, Ukraine. The telegrams were sent by the fifth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneerson to his distant relatives R' Levi Yitzchak and Chana Schneerson, upon the birth of their eldest son. Each telegram contained very specific instructions regarding the care and upbringing of this baby boy who they named Menachem Mendel. The fifth Rebbe was extremely involved in the development of this child. A few years later, he suggested to his wife, that they should seriously consider arranging a match between the young boy and their granddaughter, Chaya Mushka (a marriage that would eventually take place much later in 1928). Though they would never meet, Rabbi Sholom Dovber sensed special qualities in the soul of the boy and that he was destined for greatness. The young Menachem Mendel eventually ascended to the leadership of the movement that was led by his wife's father and grandfather. In 1950 he became the Lubavitcher Rebbe, whose birthday is today the 11th of Nissan.

Much as been written and said about the Rebbe's unique qualities. Two additional biographies are currently being published by Joseph Telushkin and Adin Steinsaltz respectively. There are many great people. People who have made major contributions to humanity in various fields of scholarship - Torah, science, medicine and many more. There are people who have inspired others with their teachings and example. There are those who posses a visionary quality which enables them to set the tone for the future. Often these leaders are so involved in the global scene that they have trouble relating to the concerns of individuals. The uniqueness of the Rebbe is that while he directed a worldwide movement, guided religious, political, educational, scientific, medical and civic leaders on issues of broad reach and spoke and wrote a wealth of Torah teachings, he was still able to relate to the individual. A person who was in an audience with the Rebbe or was standing before the Rebbe to receive a dollar to give to Tzedakah and a blessing felt as though they were the only concern. At that moment there was nothing more important to the Rebbe than they and their issues. This quality is one that the Torah uses to describe what a Rebbe is supposed to be. A shepherd concerned about each sheep. A leader who connects with the spirit of each person in their flock. The combination of a leader who is involved in every facet of life and a father who cares about every child is what makes one a Rebbe. 

Today is the Rebbe's birthday. To learn more about the Rebbe, his teachings and his influence on the lives of so many, please visit www.chabadneworleans.com/rebbe. 

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Extreme Makeover Passover Edition

In a recent conversation with my mother-in-law, we were reflecting on the idea that back in the day, every Jewish home received some degree of a makeover before Passover. For many it was the one or two room hovel that would be whitewashed with a fresh coat along with a new layer of sand for the floor before Pesach. For the wealthier it may have been something a little more extravagant. Either way it was an integral part of the cleaning and Pesach prep.

As I thought about it, the notion of an “Extreme Makeover” Passover edition seemed much more relevant when thinking about the spiritual angle. Pesach is the holiday of rebirth because it is the holiday of our birth as a nation. Each year as we attempt to experience the Exodus by going through a personal journey toward freedom from inner constraints and boundaries, this is an “Extreme Makeover” of our individual personas.

This makeover requires as much effort and preparation as the physical Passover transformation of our homes. The preparation consists of the study of Torah and sincere prayer and Mitzvah observance. The effort is the freeing oneself of any feelings of self-consciousness, from without or within, with regard to the various elements of our involvement in Judaism and our relationship with Hashem. When it is done, we will likely take a look at our new selves and say – it is an amazing change, if I did it again I would improve something here or change something there, thereby leaving us with work to do until the next Pesach.

Yet, despite all the talk of spiritual change, there needs to be little something in the literal makeover as well. To that end we are proud to unveil our new and improved www.chabadneworleans.com. The front end has been completely overhauled and we are working on the rest of it as well. Many thanks to the staff at our network, Chabad.org, for all of their hard work and the constant improvements. We are proud of this Extreme Makeover and we hope you enjoy the new look and the improved usefulness of the website.

As you prepare for Pesach, remember that www.chabadneworleans.com/pesach is your one stop resource for everything Passover.

We wish a congratulations to the management and staff of the new Kosher establishment in town, Waffle on Maple. Under the supervision of the LKC (Louisiana Kashrut Committee),Waffles on Maple is dairy – Chalav Yisrael. Much success to Rotem, Zev and the whole Waffles on Maple crew. For info: www.facebook.com/2705388364554.

Chabad of Louisiana mourns the passing of Dr. Gary Goldbard. Gary had gotten involved with Chabad over the last few years through study and Shabbat and holidays. We are saddened by his sudden passing.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

 

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