ChabadNewOrleans Blog

Where is My Joy Button?

You cannot legislate an emotion. We cannot be commanded to feel something. So how can Hashem command us to be joyous on the festival of Sukkot? What compels this joy, to the extent that the holiday is called “the season of our rejoicing?”

There are many angles taken by the sages over the generations to help us appreciate the joy of Sukkot.

We have covered some of them over the years and can be accessed here:

The wedding:

The victory party:

I would like to share an angle that struck me this year towards the end of Yom Kippur (it is not my own idea but rather based on things that I have learned over the years in Chassidic thought.)

Imagine a person goes through life under the assumption that they are an insignificant speck on the tapestry of humanity that houses billions of other insignificant specks. (That itself is an inaccurate assumption, because each speck contributes to the full picture, but I digress.) One day the person uncovers something very significant about themselves. There is a joy in that self-discovery that is very powerful.

Imagine someone living a simple or even poor lifestyle. They simply don’t have the resources to enjoy the “finer things” of life. One day they are informed that there has been a dormant account in their name filled with money left to them by a distant relative many years ago. The lawyers and the bank were unable to trace them for all that time. They had been wealthy all along, they were just unaware of the wealth that was theirs. The joy is not just in the newfound wealth, but in the discovery that this is what they have had for a long time.

Imagine someone goes through life not knowing who their biological parents were. They are assumed to be from humble stock (not that there is anything wrong with that). Then all of a sudden, they find out that they are from a noble and gracious background. The joy in discovering one’s special identity is uniquely profound.

Throughout the High Holidays, especially on Yom Kippur, we are engaged in a journey of self-discovery. Our appreciation for the identity of our soul as being very connected to G-d, grows exponentially as the day goes on. At Neilah, we finally achieve the breakthrough that opens us up to our reality. The “doors of heaven” close, but we are left inside to experience an intimate union with G-d. We discover that the “real me” is that core essence of my Neshama that is totally bound up with Hashem. The joy that follows is indescribable. It compels us to want to celebrate and experience this newly discovered identity in every way possible. The holiday of Sukkot is that celebration, with all of its opportunities to experience and rejoice in our true selves. The celebration reaches a climax at the end of the holiday on Simchat Torah, after which we settle in to daily life in our new reality.

So, whoop it up. Shout joyously to the world about how excited you are to have discovered your true identity. Celebrate it with everything you’ve got!

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Sukkot
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Overcoming Yom Kippur Fasting Fatigue

A common topic of conversation around this time of year is how difficult people find fasting on Yom Kippur. Folks are daunted by the notion of over 24 hours without food or water. I understand why that feels overwhelming, especially in our climate.

I must admit that I generally don’t find fasting on Yom Kippur to be a challenge. There are six fast days on the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur is the least difficult for me. Why is this so? Practically, when one is occupied, one does not have the opportunity to consider personal discomfort. Yom Kippur is a busy day, filled with prayers and devotion.

Beyond the practical, there is an undercurrent of energy associated with Yom Kippur that can elevate us above our everyday concerns and considerations. There is a quote attributed to Rabbi Sholom Ber of Lubavitch, “On Yom Kippur… who can eat.” Eating is so pedestrian, relative to what we are experiencing on this special day.

I recall the years that I was privileged to be in the Rebbe’s presence for Yom Kippur. The energy, and the adrenaline that it brought, increased as the day went on. By the time we got to Neilah, the final prayer service of Yom Kippur, 770 (the Rebbe’s shul in Brooklyn) was rocking like it was Simchas Torah. The songs became livelier, the prayers more intense, and the atmosphere was electric. The crescendo was at the last moment before the sounding of the Shofar. According to Chabad custom, a victory march is sung at the end of Yom Kippur. The Rebbe ascended a platform (in the early years he climbed up on his chair) and led the singing and dancing with amazing energy. The room was shaking, and thousands of people jammed together were singing and dancing in place. An outside observer would never believe that the entire assembly had been fasting for 24 hours.  

Yom Kippur is an amazing day to get in touch with our core identity. The solution to Yom Kippur fasting fatigue is getting your Yom Kippur groove on. When you are in the “zone,” the energy comes from a source far more powerful and potent than mere food and drink, it comes from the soul!

Wishing you all a meaningful Yom Kippur! May G-d seal us all for the blessings of good health, prosperity, nachas, and meaningful spiritual growth.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Putting the Happy in "Happy New Year"

The Torah gives us basic instructions on how to observe the holidays, including Rosh Hashanah. The Talmud and other works of the Oral tradition give us more details, and layers of meaning underlying each holiday and its unique observances. It is less common, however, to find descriptions in Scripture of actual observances of the holidays. There are a few scattered references to holiday observance throughout the entire Tanach.

One of those is in the Book of Ezra/Nechemia. Ezra was the leader who oversaw the return of the Babylonian exiles to Israel at the beginning of the Second Temple era. 70 years of desolation had wreaked havoc on Torah observance. Assimilation and intermarriage were rampant, leaving most Jews ignorant of and apathetic to religious practices. It is not a stretch to say that the vast majority of Jews alive at the time had never seen, let alone read from, a Torah scroll.

Enter Ezra and Nechemia. They gathered the people and started to teach them what was written in “the scroll of G-d’s Law.” There was a surge of commitment, and many people were very inspired. The narrative continues that it was Rosh Hashanah, and the people were moved to tears by the words of Torah that they heard. Ezra and Nechemia then declared, “This day is holy to the L-rd your G-d; neither mourn nor weep. Go, eat delicacies, and drink sweet drinks, and send portions to whoever has nothing prepared, for the day is holy to our L-rd, and do not be sad, for the joy of the L-rd is your strength.” Scripture continues, “Then all the people went to eat and to drink and to send portions and to rejoice greatly. And on the second day (of Rosh Hashanah), the people… gathered to Ezra, and to understand the words of the Torah. And they found written in the Torah that the L-rd had commanded by the hand of Moses that the Children of Israel dwell in booths on the festival in the seventh month… And all the congregation of the returnees from the captivity made booths and dwelt in the booths… and there was exceedingly great joy.”

There are several takeaways from this narrative that are relevant to us in 2023.

Firstly, we see that Rosh Hashanah is to be properly observed not with sadness, but with joy. Since it is “a day holy to Hashem”, He rejoices, and we derive strength in that joy. Real teshuvah should induce us to “rejoice greatly.” What greater joy is there than distant children who come home to their parents?

Secondly, we see that for us to be happy, we need to share with those who don’t have their own. It is never enough to take care of yourself and be happy. We can only rejoice when we bring that joy to others. When we “eat delicacies and drink sweet drinks” we must remember to “send portions to whoever has nothing prepared.” This is true of any type of need, whether material and spiritual.

Lastly, we see from this story that on Rosh Hashana one should already be thinking about Sukkot. Just as we are cautioned to be concerned with the needs of others for Rosh Hashanah, so too for Sukkot. In return, the joy of Sukkot feeds back to Rosh Hashanah. So, on this occasion, I encourage all of us to think of how we can help another Jew observe the holidays. This is true both in a material sense as well as in a spiritual sense. We must ensure that every Jew has access to a Sukkah and a Lulav & Etrog. We must see to it that our fellow Jews have what they need to celebrate Sukkot.

We at Chabad seek to make the holiday of Sukkot as accessible as can be. One of the ways is through Sukkah-Fest, offering hundreds of people the opportunity to celebrate together in a Sukkah with good food, and access to a Lulav & Etrog. Partner with us in the spirit of “the Ezra story” by going to or reply to this email and let us know that you want to be a partner!

In the merit of our love and care for each other, may Hashem bless us all with a good and sweet year filled with health, prosperity, nachas, and meaningful spiritual growth.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Someone Who Is Not An "Other"

In 1960 there was a Jewish woman in London who was very ill. The doctors were concerned for her life and had nearly despaired of curing her illness. She and her husband were friendly with a recently arrived Chabad Rabbi, who suggested that they write to the Rebbe for a blessing and his prayers on her behalf. They did so, and shortly afterwards her condition improved and, ultimately, she made a complete recovery.

The couple was very grateful to the Rebbe for his blessing and prayers. They made no secret of that gratitude, and it became a topic of conversation in their community. Their Synagogue Rabbi, though an admirer of the Rebbe, was perplexed by the advice given by the Chabad Rabbi to ask for the Rebbe’s prayers. He cited a passage from the Torah reading on Rosh Hashanah to support his question. In Genesis chapter 21 we read of Yishmael taking ill in the wilderness outside Beersheba. The verse states, “Fear not, for G-d has heard the lad's voice…” Upon which Rashi comments, citing a Midrash, “From here we learn that the sick person’s prayer is more effective than the prayer of others on his behalf.”

“In light of the above,” the Rabbi asked, “why would you ask someone else (the Rebbe) to pray for the woman who was ill instead of encouraging her to intensify her own prayers?”

The question made its way back to the Rebbe. After pointing out that the advice to ask a sage for prayers comes from the Talmud, he then proceeded to explain why it was proper advice. Rashi says that the prayer of the sick person is more effective than the prayer of others. Emphasis is on “others.” However, if someone is not an “other,” but rather cares about you as much as you care about yourself, then their prayer would be as effective.

The term Rebbe is an acronym for Rosh Bnei Yisrael – the head of the children of Israel. Just as the head is what senses the pain and pleasure of the organs and limbs of a body, the Rebbe is the “head” of our collective Jewish soul, and therefore senses the needs and feelings of a Jew anywhere. When the Rebbe prays for us, he is not praying for an “other;” it is his own pain and need that he senses as our collective Rosh.    

We employ the same term when speaking of the upcoming holiday, Rosh Hashanah. It is not just the beginning of the year, but also the “head” of the year. What we experience spiritually on Rosh Hashanah, reverberates throughout the rest of the year. This is why we are encouraged to pack as much spirituality and goodness into the 48 hours of Rosh Hashanah, not wasting any of the time on trivialities. We take great care to ensure that our “brain” is healthy and well-supported. This pays dividends for the rest of our year.

May we merit to utilize the gift that is Rosh Hashanah, as well as the days leading up to it. This in turn brings the blessings of a good and sweet year of health, prosperity, nachas, and meaningful spiritual growth for all of us.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

New Year, New Horizons

A new year brings new beginnings and new horizons. For us as Jews, those horizons must include new opportunities to expand our involvement with the study of Torah.

I am excited to announce that Chabad of Louisiana is partnering with the Stone family to present this year’s slate of JLI courses in memory of Richard B. Stone. Richard was a real friend of Chabad of Louisiana, and the New Orleans Jewish community. More on that here:

This year's courses are particularly intriguing. The fall course is The World of Kabbalah. The winter course is Advice for Life (from the Rebbe's guidance). The spring course is Decisions of Fate (Jewish values for making life and death decisions), which will offer CLE and CME credits. We feel that this is a meaningful way to honor Richard's memory as well as his devotion to Jewish learning, and how the Torah informed his view of law and ethics.

Registration for The World of Kabbalah, which begins after the holidays, is already open. For more information see

Chabad Metairie will be offering the course as well –

In addition to the slate of JLI courses, we have several new and classic adult education offerings to share with you.

Breakfast with Maimonides: The first Sunday of each month (including this weekend) at 9 am, taught by Rabbi Zelig Rivkin.

Opening the Talmud: A weekly Talmud class for beginners – Sunday evenings at 6 pm, taught by Rabbi Yossi Cohen

The Machzor Unpacked: Meditations on the High Holiday liturgy – Tuesday, September 5 at 8 pm, taught by Rabbi Yossi Cohen.

“Read It In Hebrew”: A four part Hebrew reading crash course – beginning Tuesday, October 17, taught by Rabbi Mendel Rivkin.

We hope that you will take advantage of these opportunities to expand your Torah horizons and we look forward to exploring our shared heritage together with you.

We take this opportunity to welcome two new families to our community.

Drs. Stefan and Naomi Grant & family.
Rabbi Mendel and Rivka Rivkin & family.

Wishing them much success in their new location and new endeavors.

May we all be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet new year filled with health, prosperity, happiness, and meaningful spiritual growth.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Utilize Your Access

One of the most valuable commodities is access. Someone that has access to power or resources can achieve monumental things. Political and business leaders, or famous celebrities are surrounded by people who may even monetize the access they can offer to their famous associates. Access to capital can be the difference between the success or failure of a business venture.

Now, having access does not guarantee that one will take advantage of the access. How many people have gym membership, giving them access to opportunities for exercise, that do not spend any time in the gym? The gym membership does not automatically translate into better fitness and health. The access must be utilized for it to accomplish anything.

What is the value of access to Hashem?

Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad, offers the following famous analogy when explaining the dynamic of Elul. A king is usually in the palace. To get access, one must be well connected and receive an invitation. On occasion, the king leaves the palace and goes out to the people. This phenomenon is called “the king in the field.” When the king is in the field, no appointment or connections are required to gain access. He is accessible to all and is, in fact, happy to see anyone who comes to meet him. One need not be dressed in sophisticated clothing. One need not speak sophisticated language. All that is required is the desire to utilize the access that is granted.

During the month of Elul, Hashem makes Himself accessible and offers “to meet us where we are at.” Though our garments may be sullied with the stains of “field work,” we are welcomed with a smile. All of this is made available to us so that we can prepare adequately and enter the new year as well-connected aristocrats, who have access to the King anytime.

However, as mentioned, access does not guarantee that one will take advantage of the access. We must desire to utilize the access. Let us not be the fools who have the King within reach yet allow the opportunity to slip by unrealized. The King is waiting for us. He wants to greet us. He wants to interact with us. Make the most of your access over the next three weeks. This will bring us the blessings of a Shana Tova in all areas of life both materially and spiritually.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Doing Elul Louisiana Style

Today marks the beginning of a 40-day period the culminates with the High Holidays – Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The high holidays are days of judgement. So today, as the beginning of Elul, is when we start with our pre-trial motions, to invoke some legal parlance.

I have a memory from sometime in the early 80s. There was a school play at Lakeshore Hebrew Day School and the plot involved a Jewish boy (David) getting arrested after being falsely accused of shoplifting. While in jail, he meets another Jewish kid (Danny) who had a rough childhood and ran with the wrong crowd, landing him in prison. David strikes up a conversation with Danny and realizes that if the kid only had a good home environment, he could live a decent life. As they converse, David tells Danny that when his father comes to get him out, he will ask him to help Danny as well. He concludes with this declaration. “My father knows the judge; he will be able to get you out.”

The entire audience got a good chuckle. “Only in Louisiana…”

Now, while using connections to the judge may be a corruption of justice in our legal system, when it comes to the “Judge of all of the universe,” it is highly recommended.

In fact, while feeling judged is usually something we recoil from, we should embrace the judgement of the Judge Who loves us more than we love ourselves and knows us better than we know ourselves. Indeed, He programmed us with the proclivities for failure and success. He knows the deep truth about the circumstances that caused us to falter. He empowers us with the tools for personal redemption and is our most devoted cheerleader.

Talk about conflict of interest… And yet, this is one case where the Judge will never recuse Himself, despite the defendant being His precious child. Throw in some “bribery” in the form of Mitzvot and Tzedakah, some “flattery” in the form of prayer and psalms, and we are well on the way to a positive judicial outcome.

Did I mention that the judge also attends the victory party? That’s what Sukkot/Simchat Torah are all about!

Who said there was nothing positive to be derived from our system of corruption?

In all seriousness, seize the opportunity these next 40 days to present your best case and then get ready to party with the judge in victory!

Shabbat Shalom. May we all be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet year filled with health, prosperity, nachas, and meaningful spiritual growth.

Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Blessings Part III - Making Mitzvot Meaningful

For the past two weeks we have been exploring the meaning of the text of blessings.

Part I here:
Part II here:

In our third installment, we will explore the words that are added in a blessing over a Mitzvah, “Asher Kidishanu B’Mitzvotav, V’tzivanu” - Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us…

Asher – Literally means who or which has. Asher is etymologically related to Osher which means joy or fortune. We have the good fortune and joy of being singled out by our great G-d for the purpose of fulfilling His mandates.

Kidishanu – Literally means sanctified us, from the root Kodesh – holiness. The same term is also used for the act of marriage, where the groom says Harei At Mekudeshet Li – behold you are consecrated to me. In this context it connotes two things. Firstly, designation for an exclusive relationship. The second connotation is the holy union of intimacy.

B’Mitzvotav – Literally means with His commandments. However, in Aramaic Mitzvah is etymologically related to Tzavta, which means connection. So, a Mitzvah is not just a mandate to perform an act, it is an opportunity to connect to the Infinite.

V’tzivanu – Literally means and commanded us. As above in the interpretation of Mitzvah, this word is related to connection. So, we would read it “and He connected us (to Him through the particular Mitzvah that we are about to perform).

To summarize, when we make a blessing over a Mitzvah, we are thanking G-d for giving us the great fortune of designating us for a profoundly intimate relationship with Him, and abundant opportunities for connection bridging the gap between finite me and Infinite G-d.

Bringing this full circle, we encounter this text of blessings wherever we turn as Jews. As mentioned in part I, we are making as many as 100 blessings a day. I hope that these articles will empower us to infuse more meaning and intentionality into the otherwise mumbled words of a Bracha.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Blessings Part II

Last week we began exploring the deeper meaning of the text of blessings we recite throughout the day. For a refresher see here:

This week we will continue with the next part of the text.

Melech – Literally means king. Why is Jewish mysticism obsessed with monarchy as a model for the interface between G-d and His creation? The secret lies in this phrase, “Ein Melech B’lo Am – there is no King without subjects.” “Am” which means nation or subjects, is etymologically related to Omemot – a reference to dimming coals. In other words, an “Am” is an entity whose connection to the King is dimmed, offering a perception of autonomy. Hashem desires a relationship. Within that context, He requires an “other,” an “Am,” subjects who are “seemingly” separate who can choose to connect. Which leads us to the next word in the text…

Ha’Olam – Literally means the universe. However, Olam shares an etymological root with He’elem, which means concealment. The platform in which Hashem can be a Melech and have a relationship with an Am, is by necessity an Olam, a place where the Divinity that underlies all of existence, is concealed.

So, the blessing now conveys to us that we are asking G-d to draw down from His pool of Divine flow stemming from His essence, through His transcendent self, via the aspect of Him that is personally associated with us, for the purpose of having a relationship with us so that we can reveal Divinity in a world of concealment.

Now we see how masterful our sages were in being able to tap into the richness of the Holy Tongue to convey that lengthy message in a mere six words.

But how do we accomplish this? How can we reveal Divinity in a world of concealment? This is conveyed to us in the final part of each blessing. There are three types of blessings that we say.

·       Blessings over an experience of pleasure from G-d’s world (such as food or drink).

·       Blessings of thanksgiving and praise for something that G-d did for us.

·       Blessings over Mitzvot.

The common denominator is that all three are associated with our human experience. When we bless over one of those three areas of life, we are proclaiming that all we encounter is a part of the Divine reality. The food that we eat. The world around us. The objects with which we perform Mitzvot. All of these become vehicles for us to channel Divinity into this world of concealment, thereby illuminating it with the truth that “There is Nothing Aside from Him."

Next week. G-d willing, we will explore the added phrase that is included in the blessing over Mitzvot.

I hope that these explanations have served to pique your interest, but more importantly, have infused your blessings with more meaning.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Why Does G-d Need So Many Blessings?

Did you know that Jewish law mandates reciting at least 100 blessings daily? Multiply that by the number of people who follow that law, and that’s hundreds of millions of blessings each day. Did you ever wonder why G-d needs those blessings? Shouldn’t it be reversed? Maybe Hashem should bless us 100 times a day. What’s the deal with all those blessings?

First of all, I would argue that blessing G-d is important for us to develop our “gratitude muscles.” Each time we bless G-d, we recognize that the source of life and everything in it, is Hashem.

Over the next two weeks, I would like to offer a deeper peek at the text of the blessings.

The opening of each blessing is “Baruch Atah Ado-nai Elo-heinu Melech Ha’olam” Blessed are You, L-rd, our G-d, King of the Universe. If it’s blessing before a Mitzvah, we add “asher kideshanu bmitzvotav vitzivanu” Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to…

Why do we refer to G-d in three different ways, You, L-rd, Our G-d? Why do we call G-d King of the Universe? Despite the popularity of the British Royal family as a curiosity, monarchism is not exactly a form of governance that is heavily embraced. How does Hashem sanctify us with His Mitzvot?   

Let’s explore the meaning of each of these words.

Baruch – literally means blessed. The three root letters of Baruch are: Bet, Reish, and Chaf. A deeper meaning of Baruch are the two words that are etymologically related. Mavrich, which is an agricultural term that means to take a branch and bend it down to the ground to strengthen the tree. In modern agriculture it is called “layering.” The second is Breicha, or pool (of water). In this context, Baruch means that we are calling on Hashem to draw from His pool of beneficence and bend those blessings in a Divine flow towards us so that we can experience them in our daily lives.

Atah – literally means you. In this context we refer to the aspect of Divinity that transcends the association with a name. We address His Essence and ask that the Divine flow (in both applications) come from His Essence.

Ado-nai – is actually a substitute for Y-H-V-H – the ineffable name of G-d. Here we ask that the Divine flow from His Essence, come to us by means of the Divine Manifestation that transcends the act of creation. This allows the Divine flow to remain potent and powerful.

Elo-heinu – this name of G-d comes with the most empowering and uplifting suffix. In Hebrew placing a nun/vav at the end of a word, makes it plural possessive. Our G-d. Hashem allows his name/identity to be wrapped up in ours. Hashem wants our connection to be personal. The great transcendent G-d who is all powerful, is my G-d. As we say in our festival prayers, Your great and holy name You have proclaimed upon us. How wonderful it feels to know that Hashem is proud of His association with us.     

G-d willing next week we will explore the second half of the text. In the meantime take a moment to contemplate these profound ideas before you rattle off a bracha – blessing to G-d.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Why Print a Calendar in 2023

Every summer I go through the same thought process. Why are we printing a calendar this year? In the 21st century, who uses a printed calendar when everything is available online? It is an expensive project and I hate soliciting ads / donations. I feel like we are constantly asking people for money to support one project or another. Maybe this year we can just eliminate the calendar?

But then I think about the calls and messages from those who view the calendar as a valued resource. Like the folks in prison who have very limited internet access. Or people who are very isolated from other Jews for whom the calendar is a treasure trove of Jewish information and connection. Or people who prefer to rely on print material instead of, or in addition to, online resources.

I think about the many homes and businesses that I have visited over the years where I see the calendar displayed and used.

I think about the calls I get from people to discuss some of the Jewish information on the top page of the calendar months.

I think about the requests that I get from people to send them a calendar if, for some inexplicable reason, their copy got lost in the mail, or from a new family that just moved to town or was not on our mailing list.

So, I conclude that the calendar is important, and we are going to print again this year!

So folks, please help ease the agony of this decision by generously supporting the calendar printing this year by advertising your business or becoming a calendar sponsor.

The truth is, it is an opportunity to get in front of the eyeballs of 2500 households, mostly in the New Orleans Metro area. Please see below and let us know that we can count on you to continue bringing this treasure to those the need it and appreciate it.

If you would like to receive the calendar, or know someone else that would enjoy it, please email a current mailing address to [email protected]. If you received the calendar last year, there is no need to email or call unless your address has changed.

Place an ad for your business, a personal greeting, or sponsor a date of the year in honor of the Birthday, Yahrtzeit or Anniversary of a loved one. Please take note of the PERSONAL GREETING option. The calendar features Full Color Ads. We also offer a multiple ad discount. Place five ads and receive a sixth for free. Please review the options below and let us know that we can count on you for your support. Please note that despite a significant increase in our cost, the ad prices remain the same.

Calendar Sponsor - $3,500.00 - Your ad/greeting will be included on the front cover of our calendar as well as on each page.

Centerfold Sponsor - $1,000.00 - Your ad/greeting will be featured on a full centerfold page.

Full Month Sponsor - $500.00 - Your ad/greeting will be included on the top page of the month of your choice.

Partial Month Sponsor - $300.00 - Your smaller ad/greeting will be included on the top page of the month of your choice.

Large Box Ad- $125.00 each - Your ad/greeting will cover two date boxes within the month/s of your choice.

Small Box Ad- $100.00 each - Your ad/greeting will cover one date box within the month/s of your choice.

Business Greeting - $100.00 - Your ad/greeting will appear on the greeting/business card page of the calendar.

Personal Greeting - $54.00 - Your Shana Tova or general greeting will appear on the greeting page of the calendar.

Tribute - include the important dates of your family calendar - birthdays, anniversaries and yahrtzeits. Each will appear on the actual date of occurrence in our calendar @ $36.00 per date.

We hope that we can count on your participation this year and we look forward to receiving your positive response. The deadline is Monday, July 31. Please take 30 seconds and email [email protected]. If you would like to pay for your ad/tribute online please visit our secure page If you want to repeat last year’s ads or tributes just let me know and there is no need to resubmit the information.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Thank you for the Love!

This week we humbly asked for your support of our campaign to raise $170,000 in 36 hours. We are pleased to share with you that the campaign was successful. This is important to us on many levels. Firstly, these funds constitute over one third of our annual budget, so the success of the effort gives us a considerable lead on our fundraising for the rest of the year. 

But what is even more meaningful to us is, that 220 donor households were moved by the Chabad of Louisiana story sufficiently to participate in the campaign. The group of donors included current members of the New Orleans Jewish community, former New Orleanians who retain a warm spot in their heart for Chabad of Louisiana, visitors to our city who benefitted from Chabad’s hospitality over the years, and businesspeople that regularly come through Chabad when they are in town. 220 individuals who are entrusting us with their investment to ensure the continuity of Jewish life in the Greater New Orleans region.

That’s a lot of love. Our narrative throughout this campaign has been, that Chabad is about relationships. Our 8 matching donor households, and the 220 contributing donor households, have demonstrated that they appreciate those relationships, and they reciprocated by sending their love our way!

The funds are critical. But the love that accompanied them is extremely uplifting. I wish to share with you a sampling of the messages we received.

“I am grateful to be able to make a token contribution to your amazing life changing organization. Much love!”

“I am grateful for your friendship and the opportunities Chabad creates in our community. ”

“Thanks for your hard work serving the community!”

“Wonderful to hear from you and keep spreading your amazing light!!”

“We miss you guys! And we are happy to tell you that you make a difference to help the Jewish people! The Rebbe was correct! He wanted to send his Shluchim all over the world so they could make a difference! And what a difference you and your family have made in Louisiana!!”

This is what it is all about. It is love that binds us to Hashem and to each other. Thank you for the love! #Heart.Soul.Community. 

Rabbi Mendel Rivkin



PS If you did not have a chance to participate in the campaign, it is never too late to partner with us to ensure that the work goes on!

Tel Aviv Lemonade Stand

When life gives you lemons, the optimal way to deal with it is to turn them into lemonade. Earlier this week, a video went viral in Israel of a woman (how do you say “Karen” in Hebrew?) harassing a young man in Tel Aviv who was laying Tefillin with a pair of teenagers. That young man is a close friend and colleague of my son Sholom. The woman was rude and disrespectful, not to mention disingenuous. The young man remained calm, smiling, and upbeat throughout the ordeal.

In the ensuing days, an avalanche of positivity spawned from this event. There have been lots of positive media coverage and social media posts about this. Even more importantly, many people have come forward to express their support by volunteering to lay tefillin.

Sholom told me that one of the people with whom he meets regularly to lay tefillin, decided that he was going to commit to putting them on every day and bought his own set. Furthermore, this week he asked Sholom for a small portable tefillin stand that he could set up in the doorway of his coffee shop as a way of combatting the negativity. This morning he sent Sholom a video of him laying Tefillin with another man, who had never worn tefillin in his life. It looks like the coffee shop is serving a special flavor of lemonade in Tel Aviv.

This groundswell of support and positive vibes for the effort to politely enable fellow Jews to engage in a Mitzvah on the go, is very encouraging.

There are echoes here of Bilaam’s intended harmful pronunciations against the Jews being transformed into a blessing. With one major caveat! The woman at the center of this controversy is as Jewish as all of us. She has a Jewish Neshama that is just waiting to burst forth. Perhaps this encounter will be a catalyst for her own spark to be ignited within.

May we speedily reach the time when every Jew comes home to experience the unique relationship they have with Hashem!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Is Balak a Top-50 Name?

If you had to compile your top 50 list of Jewish names, I highly doubt that Balak would make the cut. Yet, in the hyper-exclusive list of (54) Torah portions the name Balak was given to one of them. Who was Balak, and why was he immortalized by naming a Parsha after him?

Balak was the king of Moab, who hired Bilaam the sorcerer to curse the Jewish people. So, the question grows stronger, why would we name a Parsha in our Torah after a Jew hater of the highest caliber? How does Balak merit to join this select club of historical figures after whom a Parsha is named?

Balak’s story represents the most powerful transformation in history. He engaged Bilaam to pronounce the harshest curses and condemnations upon the people of Israel. When Bilaam actually opened his mouth to speak, the sweetest and most complimentary verses flowed.

To give a few samples…

“For from their beginning, I see them as mountain peaks, and I behold them as hills; it is a nation that will dwell alone, and will not be reckoned among the nations.”

“He does not look at evil in Jacob, and has seen no perversity in Israel; the L-rd, his G-d, is with him, and he has the King's friendship.”

“How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!”

“A star has gone forth from Jacob, and a staff will arise from Israel which will crush the princes of Moab and uproot all the sons of Seth.”          

The name Balak reminds us of the powerful love Hashem has for us. He took the intentions of our greatest enemies and flipped them into uplifting words of inspiration. As the Torah states: (Deut, 23:5) “But the L-rd, your G-d, did not want to listen to Balaam. So, the L-rd, your G-d, transformed the curse into a blessing for you, for the L-rd, your G-d, loves you.”

In fact, the only direct reference to Mashiach in the Five Books of Torah, is in the prophecy of Bilaam.

3,500 years after the story of Balak and Bilaam, they are remembered as the losers whose plans were foiled by Hashem. Even more importantly, the name of Parshat Balak awakens within us, a strong yearning for the time when Bilaam’s prophecy about the “end of times” will be fulfilled, as a star shoots forth from Jacob and a staff arises from Israel. May it take place in the immediate future.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Don't Be a Wise Guy

My maternal grandfather passed away over 22 years ago. Just this week a cousin shared a video of a talk he gave in 1987 at a Farbrengen (gathering) in Brooklyn commemorating the date of the Rebbe’s arrival in the USA. Although it was a video of a talk from 35 years ago, there was a story there that I had never heard before. I love that technology has allowed me to continue being inspired by my grandfather all these years later.

(It recalls something that someone, who was not a friend of Chabad, said in 1994 about the Rebbe. “A video accessible Rebbe does not fade easily.” JEM (Jewish Educational Media) has been working on preserving the thousands of hours of audio and video of the Rebbe, along with myriads of photographs. The video, audio, and photo files are a treasured resource to all for whom the Rebbe is a source of inspiration.)

The story that he shared took place in the Spring of 1940. The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe came to the US shortly before Purim. A suitable place for a Shul and living quarters was being sought. In the meantime, the Previous Rebbe and his family were staying at the Greystone Hotel in New York City. For Passover, a family in New Jersey placed their spacious home at the Rebbe’s disposal. When he got there the community organized a welcome. One of the speakers was a community leader who was somewhat duplicitous in his support for the Rebbe’s activities in the USA. Using flowery language, he compared the Rebbe to a Torah scroll that is revered by all.

(Some background information: According to Jewish law, if a question arises during Torah reading about the validity of a letter in the Torah, we call a child to tell us what letter he sees. For example, say the leg of a yud appears to be longer than usual, making it similar to a vav, we would call a child and ask him to tell us what he sees. That would determine whether the letter is valid. There is a caveat. The child should be neither foolish nor clever. Meaning, he must be sophisticated enough to identify the letters properly, but not knowledgeable enough to know what letter is contextually supposed to be there.)

Back to the story: The Previous Rebbe replied to the man’s seemingly complimentary speech, “To give an opinion about a Torah scroll, one must be neither too foolish nor too clever.”

My grandfather explained this to mean, that when one seeks to appreciate the role of a Rebbe and the Rebbe’s guidance in one’s life, one should not be too much of a “wise guy.” We must have the “intelligence” to recognize the value, while not allowing our “sophistication” to inject cynicism or skepticism into the equation. When we do what we are supposed to do with a sense of devotion, this opens channels of blessing into our lives.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin 

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