ChabadNewOrleans Blog

New Shoes for Pesach

Over the years we have purchased many pairs of new shoes for Pesach for the various members of our family, thank G-d. Pesach has long been a time when families tried to acquire new shoes for the kids and even the adults if needed. At times I have wondered if it is just a convenient time to think about new shoes with all of the holiday prep and spending… or whether there was some inherent connection between shoes and Pesach.

I found a connection this year in a talk from the Rebbe on Pesach. Hashem instructs the children of Israel to eat the Passover lamb on the night before the exodus with their belts girded, staffs in hands and shoes on feet. Now the belts and the staffs are understood because they were preparing to make a hasty exit from Egypt on a moment’s notice. But the shoes pose a bit of a problem. Since the cloud of glory would be accompanying them throughout their journey they had no physical need for shoes to protect them from the elements or dangerous snakes or scorpions. Why then would Hashem command them to wear shoes?

The Rebbe explains that the exodus from Egypt brought them to Sinai and consequently to the giving of the Torah, which would serve as the tool that the Jewish people would need to engage and elevate the physical world and make it a vehicle for G-dliness and holiness. To do this a person must use their feet, namely their outermost faculties to engage the world through work and mundane pursuits while retaining the upper faculties of mind and heart for service of Hashem.

Now when one goes about one’s worldly affairs there is a remote possibility that one may forget that the world is there to serve him rather than the other way around. To ensure that the person does not become enslaved to the mundane, a pair of shoes are worn to keep a person on a spiritual hoverboard – a “tefach hecher - a handbreadth above” the worldliness represented by the ground.

On the last day of Pesach we celebrate the Feast of Moshiach. This holiday prepares us for the imminent redemption. Once again we must internalize this lesson of the Pesaach shoes so that we hover a “tefach hecher” above the world that we seek to perfect for the time of the ultimate redemption.

Join us for this near redemption experience and lace up your proverbial redemption shoes! May we truly be able to say “this year in Jerusalem with Moshiach.”

Chag Sameach
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin    

Freedom=Vacation or Holiday?

Ask a Hebrew speaker how to translate free or freedom and you will get one of two answers – either Chofesh (Chofshi) or Cherut. If we look at the root of these two terms we will quickly identify how diametrically different they are. Chofesh implies free of anything that defines or structures (it is the term used for vacation). Indeed the letters of that Hebrew word are related to Chapes, Hebrew for search, meaning searching for meaning or identity. Cherut, on the other hand, implies a liberation that is filled with meaning and substance. The same Hebrew letters spell Charut, Hebrew for engraved, meaning that one’s identity is deeply instilled as letters are engraved upon stone.

Pesach is referred to as Zman Cheruteinu – season of our freedom (liberation). This freedom that we were given at the time of the Exodus was not an empty freedom from structure or definition, but rather a freedom in which the engraved identity of our relationship with Hashem was revealed.

In the English language we find a similar phenomenon. There are two words we can use for “time off,” vacation and holiday. Vacation comes from the word vacate (vacare in Latin), meaning unoccupied or empty of obligations. Holiday implies holy day, meaning a day filled with holiness and meaning.

This Pesach, as we explore our freedom, let us be certain that the freedom we pursue is Cherut rather than Chofesh and a holiday rather than vacation! It is a time to deepen and strengthen our commitment to Hashem and our Jewish identity by increasing our Torah study and Mitzvah performance. As we take upon ourselves additional Mitzvot that serve to structure our lives, rather than feeling inhibited we will feel liberated. As we commit to going to Shul one extra time a week, rather than feeling over-scheduled we will feel freer. As we absorb new areas of Torah study that serve to inform our mindset and lifestyle, rather than feeling intellectually limited we will feel expanded.

If you still need to sell your chametz, you can do

Wishing you a very meaningful and freedom seeking, yet happy and also Kosher Pesach!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

NOLA Nachas, Purim Photos, Chametz Allergy

In the past ten days our community celebrated two weddings, DL Nemes Wedding.jpgDevorah Leah Nemes to Leibel Katz (in New Orleans), and Chaya to Noah (in New York). Schreiber wedding.jpgBoth Kallahs (brides) are NOLA natives and Torah Academy graduates. To see these girls, who were raised in our community, lay the foundation of their respective new branches of the Jewish nation in the environment of a beautiful Chassidic wedding, is nothing short of real Nachas. The Rebbe once quipped that when Moshiach comes we will be able to point to dedicated young observant Jews and proudly declare “made in the USA.” To paraphrase, we can proudly point to these young women and the wonderful way that they began their married lives and declare “made in NOLA.” Mazel Tov to the Nemes and Schreiber families and the New Orleans Jewish Community!

We have uploaded dozens of photos from Purim in Outer Space courtesy of Gil Rubman. They can be viewed below or at

I recently read an article that was “gently” poking fun at the determination that some people apply to the removal of Chametz and extreme care that is exercised when purchasing or preparing Kosher for Passover food.  

While I understand the usefulness of introducing humor into sometimes stressful situations, I believe that many people are simply missing the point when it comes to attitudes toward Chametz and Pesach.

Two introductory points.

First: If one loves another, then one will go “all the way” when fulfilling the wishes of that loved one. When performing Mitzvot is motivated by love of Hashem, one does not seek to cut corners or get away with the bare minimum. Rather one seeks to fulfill the Mitzvah in the optimal manner.

Second: The prohibition of Chametz on Pesach is unlike any other food related prohibition in the Torah in that even the minutest quantity of Chametz may not be consumed on Pesach even if it is lost in a mixture that is many times its quantitative value (60, 100 or even 200 times as much).

General Mills has been promoting their method of ensuring the gluten free status of Cheerios. On the box they relate how a senior employee had a relative with Celiac Disease and that raised their awareness on how vital it was to really guarantee that the oats had absolutely no gluten products (wheat, rye etc.) mixed and the extremes they went to make that a reality. We find similar approaches to dairy or nut allergies, where disclosures are placed on containers of food that were merely processed on the same machinery as foods containing traces of those foods.

Now a Jewish Neshama, out of its love for Hashem and its understanding of the harmfulness of Chametz on Pesach, is “allergic” to Chametz on Pesach. Since many of us do not have a sensitivity for the reality of our Neshamas, we do not feel the urgency of those allergies and therefore have not developed an appreciation for the extreme care necessary to ensure that there be no Chametz on Pesach.

Taking it a step further. When we think of what Chametz represents in a deeper sense, the character flaw of arrogance, we gain a greater appreciation for how careful we need to be with Chametz on Pesach. (Matzah, on the other hand, represents humility.) The Arizal declares, that one who is careful to the extreme with Chametz on Pesach will be protected from sin throughout the year. These are some pretty powerful motivators for taking the spring allergy season for the soul seriously.

So enjoy the Pesach cleaning and don’t forget, a Matzah a day (on Pesach) keeps the ego away.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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