ChabadNewOrleans Blog

An Unconventional Building Campaign

The prophet Ezekiel received a prophecy regarding the design of the Temple just soon after the Babylonian Exile commenced. “Tell the people of Israel of the House... and measure the design." (Ezekiel 43:10) Our Sages relate: Yechezkel replied to Him: "Master of the Earth, why are You telling me to go and tell Israel the form of the House... They are now in exile in the land of our enemies. Is there anything they can do [about it]? Let them be until they return from the exile. Then, I will go and inform them." G-d answered: "Should the construction of My House be ignored just because My children are in exile?" G-d declared: "The study of the Torah's [design of the Beit Hamikdash] can be equated to its [actual] construction.”

From this Midrash we derive that during the times of exile, studying the laws of the Temple is the actual fulfillment of the command in Exodus, “Make for Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst.” Taking it one step deeper, the Beit Hamikdash has two elements, the physical Temple and the spiritual Temple. At the time of the rebuilding of the Temple, the spiritual Temple will be invested into the physical building thereby endowing it with eternality. While the physical Temple may not be built until the proper time, with the coming of Moshiach, by learning the Torah - the laws of the Temple, we actively engage in constructing the spiritual Temple, which will then be revealed when the time comes.

To learn more about the Laws of the Temple, go to Join us also for our Lunch N Learn this week, where the topic is the Temple Mount. For more info

The situation is Israel continues to occupy front and center space in our minds and in the media. To follow the situation see To support the efforts of Chabad Terror Victims Project go to

25 Rabbis walked into a bar. The bartender said, “What is this? Some kind of joke”. This week 25 Rabbis, Shluchim of the Southern Region from North Carolina to Florida to Texas and everywhere in between, converged upon New Orleans for our annual regional conference. There was a good spirit of camaraderie. We engaged in study sessions and discussed important issues including, increased cooperation among Chabad centers in the region and beyond and working with other Jewish organizations. Older Shluchim shared guidance they had from the Rebbe in their work. We enjoyed a presentation by Bradley Bain on empowering lay leaders. A community event that featured an activity called "Who said it best?" whereby three Rabbis were asked to answer several tough questions in rapid fire succession while a panel of judges evaluated their performance. Enjoy the photos below.

Later in the week a wonderful event for women, Ladies Night Out, was held. Great food, informative presentations and an art project rounded out an enjoyable evening. See photos below.

The New Orleans Eruv, a collaborative project of Anshe Sfard and Chabad Uptown, has been in the planning stages for some time now. A grant from the Jewish Federation allowed us to launch the project onto the path of reality. This week, Rabbi David Polsky and I spent several days in the company of Eruv expert, Rabbi Moshe Unsdorfer. We canvassed the city to the north, south, east and west to design an Eruv that will serve our Jewish population as well as tourists and conventioneers. This was an important step that brings us closer to having an actual Eruv in the near future, G-d willing. See photos below.

Mazel Tov to the Ceitlin/Nemes family upon the Bris of Sholom Dovber Ceitlin.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

What a Wonderful Family

This week I drove my family back home from a two week visit to New York. Some of you may remember our adventures from last April, which I wrote about in a post entitled Mr. Murphy meets Rabbi Akiva  ( I had hoped that we’d had our fill of “trip experiences” but alas we would soon learn that there was another chapter in that book. This chapter however came with a beautiful lesson learned.

We were cruising through Maryland on our way to Raleigh to visit with our daughter Mushka, who is spending the summer as a camp counselor there. We ran into some rush hour traffic on the Balt/Wash Parkway when someone indicated to us that one of our tires was very low. At 4:45 PM I pulled over safely to the side of the road and discovered that the tire was indeed rapidly going flat. Now, with my two left hands, I am the first to admit that AAA membership is worth having. It took AAA about 1.5 hours to arrive at the scene. After trying unsuccessfully to remove the tire he concluded that the car would have to be towed to a nearby tire shop. A half hour later, the tow truck came but the driver informed us that he would not be allowed to tow the car with us in it. So we began the difficult task of finding a taxi that would be large enough to hold the family. The trouble was we were up against the clock as the last shop closed at 8 PM and it was already 6:45 PM. We finally found a company willing to send us a cab “in about 20 minutes or so.” We waited and waited but the cab did not show. During this time a Jewish man pulled over in a small car and asked if we needed help. We thanked him but explained that the taxi was on the way. At 7:30 we were still waiting and the tow truck driver (who was amazingly patient and was doing overtime) was getting worried about the shop closing.

Suddenly a minivan pulls over and a Chasidic man gets out and tells us that he saw us from the other side of the highway and came back around to see if we needed help. Mr. Weiss was on his way back up to New York with his wife and two children and he refused to leave us until the taxi would arrive. In the meantime I went with the truck and we got to the shop just before 8. They were very nice and changed the tire even though it took them well past closing time. Back on the side of the highway, Malkie called the taxi company for the third time and they finally admitted that they had no car and she should wait another 30-40 minutes… Mr. Weiss packed Malkie and the kids into his car and drove them to the shop, 15 minutes away. He stayed until we were sure that the tire would be fixed.

Now I have never met Mr. Weiss. In fact he hails from Satmar community in Williamsburg, one that is quite different than Chabad. Yet he felt and made us feel that we were literally brothers. The tow truck driver was sure that we had coincidentally met a friend because, otherwise, how could I leave my family in the care of perfect strangers. As I stood with the Weisses in the parking lot of the tire shop our conversation flowed easily like were friends for years.

I thought of how special it is to be part of this wonderful family. Kol Yisrael Achim – all Jews are brothers. This is not wishful thinking. I saw this in action. The Weiss family and the unnamed man that pulled over before them only did so because they saw a fellow Jew in distress and they did not want to leave a brother stranded. I am a part of the most awesome family in the world (on the micro level too of course…). For that I am thankful. We should never need it but when we do our brothers and sisters are there for us.

Chabad of Louisiana is hosting the Southeast Regional Conference of Shluchim next week. There will be an opportunity on Sunday night at 7:30 to meet and participate in a farbrengen at Chabad Uptown with the visiting Shluchim.

A video of the book review by Rabbi Nemes and myself at Barnes & Noble can now be viewed on our website, Thank you Jordan Weiss and Chezky Binkowitz for your help with the video.

Mazel Tov to Rabbi Mendel and Chaya Mushka Ceitlin upon the birth of their son. (I can recommend a good Mohel!!!) Mazel Tov to proud grandparents Rabbi Yossie and Chanie Nemes.

We welcome Debra & Dave Mintz to the New Orleans Jewish community. Welcome also to Tulane university basketball player Aaron Liberman, who transferred from Northwestern. Welcome to another Jewish basketball player, Omri Caspi, latest member of the New Orleans Pelicans. Best of luck to all you in your new endeavors.

Please visit for the latest on Operation Protective Edge and what we can do to help. See also for support and information.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Tefillin Trails

As our brothers and sisters in the holy land are experiencing difficult times, the IDF is engaged, and preparing to engage even further, in a large scale operation in defense of Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael. We all want to do things to support those efforts. In addition to the many material ways to support the efforts of those on the front lines – such as Chabad Terror Victims Project – – there are also ways that we can provide spiritual support.

In 1967, during the weeks leading up to the Six Day War, the Rebbe launched a Tefillin Campaign encouraging all Jewish men to lay Tefillin as a way of bringing protection to those defending the Jewish people and their land. The campaign was based on Talmudic and Midrashic commentary to the verse in Deuteronomy, “And the nations of the world will see the name of G-d upon you and they will fear you.” Thousands of Jewish men lined up all over the world to lay Tefillin, some for the first time in their lives, as a way of doing their part for Israel and the IDF. For more about that campaign

The Rebbe also introduced a number of Mitzvah campaigns in a similar manner, such as the Shabbat Candles and Mezuzah Campaigns. These are things that we can do in these troubling times. We should all find ways to strengthen these Mitzvahs for ourselves and others.

In that spirit I would like to share a small Tefillin trail that I experienced this week. Early Sunday morning I arrived at JFK airport to fly back to New Orleans. As I made my way to the gate, I heard a man ask me if I spoke Hebrew. I replied in the affirmative so he asked me to help find his gate. While we were talking I asked him if he had a chance to lay Tefillin that day. (Being 7 AM I had a pretty good idea what the answer would be….) While I removing my Tefillin to put them on him, he informed that he had just gotten married the week before and introduced me to his bride. He told me he was headed to Vegas and he was hoping this would bring good luck to turn a profit. I smiled and told that he had already turned a good profit by marrying his wife and he must be thankful to G-d for the blessings. We parted with good wishes and a good start to the week.

Two days later on Tuesday, at New York Camera, we had our monthly Lunch N Learn. Uzzi Kehaty, the owner of NY Camera, always offers the men that come for the class to lay Tefillin before the lunch starts. One young man put on Tefillin and he later informed me that this was the first time in his life and that it was spiritually uplifting – in his words, “it felt comforting and right.”

Fast forward one day, I was driving back from a visit to the Jewish prisoners at the Federal Correctional Complex in Oakdale, LA. I pulled into a rest area to take a quick break. As I walked back to the car, someone standing next to a nearby vehicle calls out “Shalom.” The young man, who is an Israeli living in the US and now on a cross country road trip, and I started chatting. Of course I asked him if he would like to put on Tefillin. He was very happy to comply and put on Tefillin right in the parking lot of the Atchafalaya Welcome Center. We parted in friendship and I left him with a kippa and a copy of the Shema and travelers prayer.

Condolences to Jeffrey Smith and the entire family upon the passing of his mother, Mrs. Bertha Smith. May Hashem comfort them among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Mazal Tov to Yaakov and Chaya Muskha Brum upon their marriage last night. Special Mazal Tov to Charles and Sandra Brum. Much Nachas!!!

We would like to extend a warm welcome to Rabbi Gabe and Abby Greenberg as they assume Rabbinic duties at Beth Israel.

We would like to extend a warm welcome to Miriam and Ben Schenker and to Ariel and Paul Cohen, who recently moved to New Orleans. Wishing you all a smooth transition and we look forward to you being a part of the New Orleans Jewish Community.

Congratulations to Rabbi Akiva and Hannah Hall upon being appointed to be the Rebbe’s new Shluchim to Southern Mississippi. The Halls will be moving to Biloxi in the fall to establish a permanent Chabad presence in the state (the 49th state in the union to host a Chabad Center). To read more To support the new center go to We welcome them to the extended Chabad of Louisiana family!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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