ChabadNewOrleans Blog

Fire Roger Goodell

Roger Goodell and the NFL – No Fair League – have done it again. They have targeted New Orleans for persecution. Except this time it is not just a bad call on the field to kill a game, or a bad application of league policy to kill a season. This time they are aiming at the signature Chanukah event of the NOLA Jewish community. In an act that could “literally” be categorized as Anti-Semitic, the NFL has flexed the Saints game on December 6 from 12 noon to the afternoon slot at 3:25 PM – a direct conflict with Chanukah @ Riverwalk, which runs from 4:30-6:30 PM.

This declaration of “the war on Chanukah” is eerily familiar to the clash between the Syrian-Greeks and the Maccabees. We need to channel our inner Maccabees and rise up against this tyranny and religious persecution. “All that are for G-d rally with me.” We need to declare loud and clear that we will not back down but rather we will fight and ensure that our Chanukah celebration is not diminished by this Hellenist onslaught.

Fellow Jews let us wage this battle of light vs. might and we will vanquish!

(For the benefit of those that are humorously challenged – the above was written in the spirit of - Yiddish for The Onion.)

On a serious note – this week the NFL changed the game time for next Sunday and it will therefore be in conflict. I hope that people will fire up the DVR and do the right thing by coming to the Chanukah @ Riverwalk celebration. This event is an extremely important expression of Jewish pride and a religious freedom. Furthermore it means a lot to so many people. We look forward to celebrating with you!

We have a great program prepared this year including a first time ever Chanukah Laser Light Show. Our regular features will also be in place and the event promises to be a great one.

We extend condolences to the Mrs. Connie, Jeanie and Alan Tolmas and family upon the passing of Dr. Hyman Tolmas. Doc, as he was known, was a beloved pediatrician who treated three generations of patients in New Orleans. He was also a longtime president of Anshe Sfard and an involved member of the Jewish community. He was a personal friend of our family and we were privileged to know him and his family for many years. He will be missed, but Doc Tolmas leaves a wonderful legacy to his family in his professional, social and religious life.

We look forward to seeing you all on Monday night - 7 PM at Chabad House for the lecture by Rabbi Dov Greenberg entitled, My Beloved Knocks.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Cities of Light #sharethelights

Last Friday afternoon, as we prepared to greet the Sabbath Queen, we were getting a stream of news reports regarding the attacks in Paris. Indeed it seemed as though a great darkness had descended over “the city of lights.”

It may not be as well known, but there is another city that is associated with light. The Midrash (BR 59:8) states: “Jerusalem is the light of the world. And who is the light of Jerusalem? The Holy One Blessed be He.” So the real city of lights is Yerushalayim. It too has come under attack, albeit a slow steady drip of attacks rather than the blitz the Paris experienced.

So how do we restore the light to these cities of light? How do we combat the darkness brought to the world by these agents of darkness and their black flags? King Solomon offers us an insight in Proverbs (6:23), “For a Mitzvah is a candle and Torah is light.” Simply put, every Mitzvah is a beacon of light that combats the darkness. Each time Torah is studied, that force of light pushes away much darkness.

While most of us do not have a direct impact on the political or military solutions to this force of darkness, each and every one of us contains the power to unleash mighty forces of illuminating energy through the Torah and Mitzvot in which we engage.

I would like to make two practical suggestions. One in the area of Torah learning and the other in Mitzvah performance.

On Monday, November 30 we will have an opportunity to learn from and be inspired by a popular young lecturer, Rabbi Dov Greenberg. He will be giving a talk at Chabad House entitled, My Beloved Knocks – How the Rebbe empowered our generation. You will not regret taking the time to attend. He is a great speaker. But on top of that, the light of the Torah shared that night can help suppress the darkness that is threatening the cities of light all around the world.

The following week, the festival of lights – Chanukah begins. Two years ago the worldwide Chabad movement launched the hashtag #sharethelights. Hundreds of thousands of Jews shared their Chanukah observances with others using #sharethelights. So this year, make sure you light your Menorah each night of Chanukah and share the photo of your Chanukah lights with #sharethelights. Furthermore please attend one of the many Chanukah programs such as Chanukah @ Riverwalk, on Sunday, December 6 4:30-6:30 PM. Please contact Chabad for any of your Chanukah needs and remember to #sharethelights.

“A little light pushes away a lot of darkness.” – Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Check your privilege!

This past weekend I, along with thousands of colleagues, participated in the annual conference of Shluchim – emissaries of the Rebbe to Jewish communities the world over.

The Kinus, as it is called in Hebrew, is a chance for members of the legion to “report for duty” – to stand before the Rebbe as a group and feel his blessings and energy flow to us so that we can each return to our respective communities and continue the work for which we sent.

It is also an opportunity to recharge and be inspired through workshops and motivational talks as well as networking with friends and fellow Shluchim. As I traveled home from the Kinus on Monday, after spending the better part of Sunday night into Monday morning at a farbrengen (Chassidic gathering) with my friends, I began to reflect on what it means to be a Shliach. It comes down to two words – privilege and responsibility.

Firstly, there is the privilege of representing the Rebbe, a person whose entire life consists of holiness and dedication to G-d and His people, a leader whose teachings and example continue to touch and inspire millions, a teacher whose innovative approach to Torah study revolutionized the way Torah is learned, a man whose love for all people is reflected in the caring way that he dealt with anyone who came to his doorstep. At the same time this comes with the awesome responsibility of representing the Rebbe properly. A Shliach needs to ensure that his conduct reflects positively on the Rebbe and not, G-d forbid, the other way around. There is the responsibility of emulating the Rebbe’s approach to others while maintaining the lofty standards of holiness that one would associate with him.

Then there is the second element. A Shliach is a purveyor of Torah and Mitzvot. He has the privilege of sharing the infinite will and wisdom of Hashem especially as it is conveyed through the teachings of the Rebbe and Chasidism. Yet it is a monumental responsibility to transmit those teachings in a way that they remain faithful to their tradition while being made relevant and accessible to all. He must be innovative in his programming and teaching while retaining the purity of the Living Waters of Torah.

Finally, there are the people to whom a Shliach represents the Rebbe. This is the privilege of associating with the wonderful community to which a Shliach is assigned – in this case the amazing folks of the greater NOLA Jewish community. There is also the great responsibility to put the best foot forward and provide the optimum opportunity to each person as they grow and progress as Jews and as people.

I am grateful for the privilege and humbled by the responsibility. I hope that I and my fellow Shluchim of Chabad of Louisiana are doing our best representing the Rebbe, teaching Torah and Mitzvot, and serving our wonderful community. We treasure your partnership in this endeavor. We know that together we will finally bring the world to the goal that the Rebbe set from day one, the era of Redemption through Moshiach.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

A Year Long Invitation

Shavua Tov and don’t forget to change your clocks to fall back tonight.

This Jewish calendar year is called Hakhel. In Temple times, in the year after Shemittah (Sabbatical year), all Jewish men, women and children would gather together as one during the festival of Sukkot to hear the king read passages from a special Torah scroll. It was a mini re-enactment of the revelation at Sinai. The purpose was to strengthen the dedication of the Jewish people to Torah and Mitzvot. In our current state, when we don’t have a Temple, we still have the opportunity to gather our fellow Jews together in a show of unity and inspire one another in matters of Yirat Shamayim, Torah and Mitzvot.

Chabad of Louisiana will be putting together a series of events and programs throughout the year to highlight the Hakhel – unity aspect of the year. We hope to offer at least one additional program each month in the spirit of Hakhel. We are also planning several other Hakhel initiatives this year. We encourage you to create your own Hakhel gathering by getting together with friends and utilizing the meeting to encourage and inspire each other.

Following the month of holidays, our first Hakhel gathering will be held on Friday night, November 13. We will have a community Shabbat dinner at Chabad Uptown. All are invited. We do ask for an rsvp so that we know how many to prepare for.

We are also looking forward to a Lecture / Farbrengen on Monday night, November 30 with acclaimed lecturer, Rabbi Dov Greenberg, director of Chabad at Stamford University. More details to be forthcoming.

Chanukah is just over a month away. Chanukah @ Riverwalk will take place on the first night, Sunday, December 6. There will also be a Mobile Menorah Parade on Saturday night, December 12 as well as a Celebrity Chef Latke Cookoff for Young Professionals on Wednesday, December 9. Look out for details about the Chabad Metairie family party and the celebration for Israelis.

This year, in light of the situation in Israel, we are launching a Poem/Essay Contest on the theme of Jewish pride. All submissions of a poem or one page essay on Jewish pride will be considered. The winning submission will be read at the Chanukah @ Riverwalk celebration as a prize package is being assembled as well. All submissions should be emailed by Wednesday, December 2 to [email protected].

We mourn the tragic passing of a good friend, Trevor Dreyfus. May his family, friends and loved ones be comforted by Hashem and may we all resolve to strengthen ourselves in the area of kindness and friendship in memory of this special soul. We should share only good news in the future!

Have a great week!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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