ChabadNewOrleans Blog

Are you descended from the Ten Lost Tribes?

Dear Friends,

There is a Jewish custom that on the first twelve days in the month of Nissan we recite a passage from the Torah that describes the offering of the tribal leaders at the time of the dedication of the Tabernacle in the year 2449. Each day we read about the tribal prince who brought the offering on that corresponding day of Nissan. Following this we recite a prayer asking G-d, that if we are descended from the tribe of that day, may all of the holy energy and blessing associated with that tribe be brought upon us.

The question is, ten of the twelve tribes were sent into exile never to be heard from again, when the Assyrians conquered the Northern kingdom of Israel in Samaria and Galilee. Only the tribes that remained in the Southern kingdom of Judea survived. So beyond Judah and Benjamin (and of course the priestly tribe of Levi) there should be no current Jews descending from any other tribes. So why would we recite a prayer that seems to be completely in vain on ten of the twelve days?

I offer two answers, one pragmatic and the second mystical. When the 10 tribes broke away to form the Northern kingdom, within no time, corruption, idolatry and general rebellion against Jewish ideals set in. Baal worship became the norm. Idols were set up to replace the temple in Jerusalem and guards were put in place to discourage the pilgrimage to the holy city because it was under the rule of the Davidic dynasty – the Kings of Judea. A decent number of Jews who wished to remain faithful to G-d moved to the Southern kingdom where that was more likely to be possible. So that means that when the Babylonians exiled the Jews of Judea, among them were also members of the ten tribes of the Northern kingdom.

The mystical answer is, that our souls can contain sparks of the souls of people that are not our actual ancestors. Therefore it is entirely possible that the soul of a Benjaminite or a Levite can contain the spark of soul that was from one of the ten lost tribes. As such this prayer is completely appropriate. This also gives us another layer of insight into the notion of Jewish unity. We are all made up of sparks of the different tribes thereby lessening the differences between us and highlighting the commonalities. This is an especially proper thought to consider as we approach Pesach – the holiday that celebrates the birth of our nation.

Mazel Tov to Chezky and Devorah Leah Binkowitz upon their marriage. May Hashem continue to shower your journey and lives with blessing!

Our community mourns the passing of Mrs. Ann Brum. Grandma Ann, as she was known, was an integral part of the lives of so many of us and she will be missed. Our heartfelt condolences to her sons, Charlie and Morris, their wives, Sandra and Marilyn, and her grandchildren, Sarah, Miriam and Yaakov and their families. May Hashem comfort them among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. Morris will be returning to New Orleans for the last night of Shiva. There will be a minyan for Mincha/Maariv followed by visitation at 7 PM on Sunday night. The address is 5520 S. Johnson St. between Joseph and Octavia.

There will be a farbrengen at the Ceitlin home on Monday evening at 8 PM in honor of Nissan 11, the Rebbe’s birthday.

To sell your Chametz online, go to

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

The Moses Quotient

There is a discussion among the commentators to Passover Haggadah regarding the paucity of the mention of Moses from the narrative. Some argue that this is proof that Moses was the author of the bulk of the text and the remainder was added in Talmudic times. Others maintain that the absence of Moses from the Haggadah is because the focus needs to be on Hashem.

The Rambam has an interesting take on this issue. While he does not directly address this point, he alludes to it when discussing a father’s obligation to relate the story of the exodus to his child.

In the laws of Chametz and Matzah, 7:2 he writes, “It is a mitzvah to inform one's sons even though they do not ask, as [Exodus 13:8] states: "You shall tell your son."

A father should teach his son according to the son's knowledge: How is this applied? If the son is young or foolish, he should tell him: "My son, in Egypt, we were all slaves like this maidservant or this slave. On this night, the Holy One, Blessed be He, redeemed us and took us out to freedom."

If the son is older and wise, he should inform him what happened to us in Egypt and the miracles wrought for us by Moses, our teacher; everything according to the son's knowledge.”

What the Rambam is teaching us is that when one is more sophisticated, one is capable of appreciating the role of Moses as the agent who was appointed by Hashem to perform the miracles of Passover.

This is gives us some insight into the value of Emunas Tzadikim – the belief in the power of our righteous leaders. When stories are related of the Baal Shemtov or the Rebbe or many great Tzadikim and Jewish leaders throughout the generations, it requires a degree of spiritual maturity and sophistication to appreciate those stories and the role of a Rebbe.

Interestingly the one mention of Moses in the Haggadah is a quote from Exodus 14:31, “and they believed in the L-rd and in Moses, His servant.” This is one of the sources for the concept of Emunas Tzadikim.

The Haggadah states, “Therefore, even if we were all wise, all men of understanding, all well-versed in Torah, we would still be commanded to tell the story of the exodus from Egypt. Whoever tells the story at length is worthy of being praised.” The third Chabad Rebbe commented, even when we are all knowledgeable and learned there is great value in the telling of stories of Tzadikim and the more the better.

As we are just two weeks out from Passover, I want to remind you that is your resource for all of your holiday needs and information. It is also important to remember to take care of selling your chametz in a timely manner. You can do so online at

We say farewell to Limor (and Kobi) Rosenberg as well as Alexander (and Esther) Vogman, who are returning to Israel this week after successfully undergoing liver transplants at Ochsner hospital. We wish them all well. We value their friendship and look forward to staying in touch.

Have a wonderful Shabbos!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Nadiv Kehaty - A Fountain of Love

The last four days have been a daze in which I have been numb and in shock from the horrible loss of a person who I viewed as almost a little brother, Nadiv Kehaty.

In the beginning of this week’s Parsha we read about the contributions to the building of the Sanctuary. The Torah uses the expression “Kol Nediv Libo” – loosely translated as “anyone with a generous heart.” In Hebrew the word Nadiv means kind or generous. Tradition teaches that parents are endowed with borderline prophecy when designating a name for their child. When Uzzi and Rivkah Kehaty selected this name for their son Nadiv 30 years ago, it was straight up full prophecy. He literally, without exaggeration, embodied the word Nadiv.

Nadiv made every person feel important to him. When you interacted with Nadiv, the sense was that you his best friend. Nadiv was an amazing father, husband, son and brother. He loved his family with every fiber of his being and he was their anchor in difficult times.

Nadiv had many wonderful qualities, each worth mentioning. I would like to share three qualities that are his legacy from which each of us can derive some inspiration to implement into our lives.

The first is Simchas Hachaim – a life of happiness. This is much more than just what the French call joie de vivre. It is not just that he enjoyed living. He found joy and brought joy to others in every moment and experience of life. He always had his signature big smile and loved making people laugh and be happy. This was true even though he had plenty of challenges in his life on many levels.

The second, an outgrowth of the first, is greeting people “besever panim yafos” – with a happy face. No matter who it was, everyone got the Nadiv smile and a kind word or joke to brighten up the day.

The third was his stellar fulfillment of Ahavat Yisrael – loving his fellow. Nadiv didn’t view this as an obligation. Rather he really did love everyone and they loved him back. He loved holding babies, playing with children, talking to adults, hanging with seniors – anyone at any age. Whenever someone needed something Nadiv was there – from the smallest acts of kindness, like helping a mother with a stroller, to the big picture of helping people in many unheralded ways.

Nadiv also loved New Orleans. Even though he had moved away many years earlier and set up his life in Brooklyn, NY, New Orleans was still home and he considered himself a local. He thrived on hearing about the growth and development of Chabad in New Orleans. On many occasions Nadiv generously supported the activities of Chabad in New Orleans. He was a regular sponsor of the Downtown Lunch N Learn, Young Professionals events and much more. He loved reading about things that were going on and constantly gave enthusiastic encouragement.

I had the pleasure of being in touch with Nadiv on a regular basis. He would call, text, email or send a facebook message just to let me know that he was thinking about our community. He would shower us with blessings. Nadiv very much wanted to be financially successful so that he could be even more generous in his support of the causes that he loved.

When the tragedy struck earlier this week, it was hard to imagine that the love and the joy of life and the smile were all gone. When I got the call I could not, and still cannot, imagine life without Nadiv’s physical presence, his smile and love for everyone. How could this steamroll of positive energy, joy and love come to a stop? And yet for his wife Toby, their children Moshe, Yuda, Shoshana and Yacov, his parents, Uzzi and Rivka, siblings, Talor, Tzivyah, Mendel and Levi, his in-laws the Ezagui family, and for all of his friends and loved ones, it seemed that it had come to an end.

And then something amazing started. All the love that Nadiv had projected to others throughout his 30 year life was being reflected back to him and his family. Messages, photos and kind words were streaming in from all over. Nearly 4,000 people contributed to a fund to help support Nadiv’s wife and children. Every message, photo and contribution was like a beam of love that was rebounding from the love that Nadiv had given in his lifetime. While this cannot fill the gaping void left by Nadiv’s untimely passing, it injects a tiny bit of warmth into the coldest of cold feelings being experienced by his family.

If we could only take to heart the lessons of Nadiv’s life the world would be a warmer place with more love, and this would zoom us forward to the time of Moshiach, when we will be reunited with our loved ones who have passed and we will see Nadiv Dovber ben Uzzi together again with his family and 7 billion friends.

If you would like to contribute to the fund please see

Several important initiatives are being considered to perpetuate Nadiv’s life and legacy. Details will be forthcoming in the days and weeks ahead.

May Hashem bring comfort to the family among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

We extend condolences to Malke Lew and the entire family upon the passing of her sister, Mrs. Debbie Gentcher. Mrs. Lew is sitting Shiva at home through Sunday morning.

Mazal Tov to Dafna Black (former Chabad Metairie youth director and Torah Academy teacher) and Yitz Epstein upon their marriage this past week.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Purim Recap

Dear Friends,

I have come to the conclusion that New Orleans is a pretty special place to be for Purim. The city was rocking on Purim eve with parties and events all over town that were well attended. Themed parties, second lines, good music and refreshments seem to bring our Jewish brethren out of the woodwork for this fun holiday.

At Chabad Uptown 120 people packed in for the Megillah reading and the party that followed. Great food and the music by Shawn Mirpuri of Ooh Lala really enhanced the celebration. The slide show using Chabad locals as the characters of the Purim story was also a hit. An awesome children’s program rounded off a great evening. Another 15 people came by for a late-hit Megillah reading after the party was over. Thank you to the volunteers, sponsors and all those that made it happen! Chabad Metairie had a party with along with Megillah reading as well as two more late-hit Megillah readings for folks that could not make the earlier one. (Photos below.)

Following morning services and Megillah reading – the Purim Shuttle delivery services delivered 250(!!) packages all throughout the NOLA metro area. Thank you to the amazing volunteers who braved the cold and wind to bring Purim cheer to so many in our community. A wonderful team of volunteers also helped assemble the packages. (Photos below.)

Megillah readings were held all day at Chabad Metairie and Chabad Student Center. A Purim party at Lambeth House was held with 25 residents, family and staff in attendance. Following the Megillah reading Hamantashen and refreshments were enjoyed by all courtesy of Chaplain Kathleen Bertin.

In the French Quarter at David Antiques another Megillah reading was held bringing Jews from all over downtown to observe this Purim tradition.

Chabad on the Gulf Coast had a lovely joint Megillah reading with Beth Israel of Gulfport and then Rabbi Akiva and Hannah Hall hosted a Purim celebration in their home on Purim day.

For the first time Chabad offered some Purim activities in Baton Rouge, with Megillah readings, and Purim visits by Rabbi Peretz and Mushka Kazen, who will be establishing a Chabad presence in the capital city later this year.

Chabad of Louisiana’s grand Purim celebration – Purim A Paris was held at Chabad Metairie on Purim day with over 200 people in attendance. The food, décor, and music by Ben Schenk’s Panorama Jazz Band all created an amazing atmosphere. Creative Parisian themed costunes were observed all through the room. There were a fair share of mimes, painters, musicians and even a group that dressed as French’s mustard bottles. A smashingly successful children’s program kept the kids happy while the adults were having a great time. Once again thank you to all of those that helped make the party a great one. (Photos next week.)

Wishing you a Happy Shushan Purim and a good Shabbos!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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