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Jewish Protestors

At any given protest for a social cause you will likely find a disproportionate number of Jews in attendance. In truth we have a long history of protesting perceived injustices (think Abraham and Moses). One of the protests on record in our history, is related to us by Abudraham, one of the earliest commentaries to the Siddur.

He frames the first four Haftarahs in the series known as the “seven of comfort,” as a continuous dialogue between Hashem and the Jewish nation. (The seven Haftarahs are read during the seven weeks between Tisha B’Av and Rosh Hashanah.)

The first, Nachamu, Nachamu Ami, is interpreted as G-d instructing the prophets to comfort the people following the destruction. The second, Vatomer Tzion Azavani Hashem, is interpreted as the Jewish nation protesting that Hashem has forsaken and forgotten them and only sends them the comfort through the prophets. The third, Aniah Soarah, is interpreted as Zion as an afflicted, storm tossed one who refuses to be comforted by the prophets. Finally in the fourth, Anochi, Anochi Hu Menachemchem, Hashem responds by declaring, I, Myself will come and comfort you.

As this comfort from Hashem is as of yet incomplete (we are still in exile), we must continue to protest and demand our rights to Redemption. May Hashem finally grant us our request and usher in the era of Moshiach!

This coming Wednesday evening our community will have the opportunity to participate in a high quality adult-educational experience, Project Talmud Summer 2016. The event is underwritten by GCP Labs of Gulfport, MS in memory of Reb Shmuel ben Aryeh Leib Fishel Halevi Shindler.

Our presenters are eminently qualified and the topics are very interesting. Rabbi Yochanan Rivkin has a reputation as a fascinating speaker and teacher. As a Chabad Campus Rabbi he has been on the front lines of facilitating and observing Jewish Social Justice. His experiences have helped him formulate an innovative approach to sharing Torah’s view on Social Justice.

Dr. David Kaufmann has been teaching students and adults for decades both at Tulane University and Chabad House. For the last two years he has been battling a difficult illness. With the help of Hashem and through the efforts of the medical practitioners and his family his future is a brighter one. Dr. Kaufmann has blogged about his challenge over the past two years and will share with us his personal take on Faith during Times of Crisis.

Project Talmud is taking place from 7-9 on Wednesday evening at Chabad Uptown. We look forward to seeing you there.

The relief efforts in the Baton Rouge area are ongoing. Among the many groups engaged in providing assistance to those affected by the flooding is Chabad of Baton Rouge. For updates and to support those efforts please seewww.gofundme.com/2jrjfhfg. We, as much as anyone on this planet, understand the need and the value of this assistance.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Relief for Baton Rouge / The Agony & the Ecstasy

To quote my brother-in-law, Rabbi Peretz Kazen of Baton Rouge, “Baton Rouge has been through the wringer.” This is true of much of the region and the situation is still developing. We all remember what it was like to experience this sort of challenge, and what is was like to be comforted by the support of others. Now it is our turn to show that support to our neighbors in the flooded areas of South Louisiana.

There are many worthy organizations providing assistance and facilitating volunteering to help those in need. I have some first-hand knowledge of what Chabad’s Rabbi Peretz and Mushka Kazen are doing. They are providing moral, physical, financial and nutritional support to as many people as they are able to reach and help. They are coordinating volunteers to clean out houses, delivering food and gift cards, and reaching out in friendship to members of the devastated community.  

They have launched a campaign at www.gofundme.com/2jrjfhfg. Please contribute and help them be the people on the ground helping others. May we always merit to be on the giving end!!!

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A Jewish mother was once overheard moaning, “Oh the agony, oh the ecstasy.” When asked what was wrong, she replied, “My daughter eloped without a word to me.” “As to the ecstasy,” she added, “He is a nice young doctor.”

In the current Jewish month we experience the agony and the ecstasy of the Jewish calendar. The ninth of Av is the sad day of mourning for the destruction of the Temple and many other historic Jewish tragedies. 6 days later is the 15th of Av, the day our sages declare to be incomparably greater than all other holidays. What is so great about it? A whole bunch of nice stuff happened on that day in history. So the 9th of Av is tragedies in bunches and the 15th of Av is happy endings in bunches. But does that qualify as the greatest holiday of the year? What about Passover and the Exodus? What about Shavuot and Sinai? What about Sukkot and Simchat Torah?

To explain. Many of our holidays are held at the time of a full moon (the 15th of the Jewish month). The Jewish people “calculate according to the moon and are compared to the moon.” The cycle of the moon is a reflection of our people’s history. We wax and we wane. We have highlights and lowlights. We had the days of Moses, David and Solomon. And we had the days of Haman, Hadrian and Hitler. But the cycle is not just cyclical for the sake of being cyclical. Ultimately there is an end game. Kabbala teaches that every fall or descent is for the purpose of an ascent that lifts the person to greater heights than previously experienced.

So when the moon reaches the full point, one may argue that this is the zenith of its existence and there is no point in the waning process. However, the lower the fall the greater the rise. So Passover and Sukkot, Tu B’shvat and Purim and other good days are on or near the full moon of their respective months. But the ascent that follows the greatest fall is the 15th of Av. After the tragic low where the Jewish people hit the rock bottom of destruction and exile, the rebound is that much more powerful and compelling. In truth, the 15th of Av represents the full moon of redemption and that is why it is described as the greatest holiday of the year.

May we merit that this is the year when the potential for redemption associated with Av 15 is actualized through the coming of Moshiach!

Our condolences to Leo Golubitsky and his family upon the passing of his dear mother, Lilia Golubitsky. May Hashem comfort them among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem!

Shabbat Shalom and Happy 15th of Av!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Earning the Holy Land

There is the age-old conundrum over defining the nature of the Jews. Are we a nation? A faith group? An ethnic group? A verse in this week’s Parsha helps us understand the issue. Moses quotes G-d as saying, “You have stayed at this mountain “Rav” - excessively. Turn away and journey… Come and possess the land that G-d promised to your fathers.” The simple meaning is that “you have been at Sinai long enough, it’s time to move on.”

However Rashi cites an alternative interpretation. “Your stay at this mountain has been “Rav” plenty for you,” alluding to the spiritual wealth accumulated at Mount Sinai. “Your stay at this mountain has brought you significant greatness… You built the Mishkan, the menorah, and other furnishings; you received the Torah; you appointed a Sanhedrin…”

The Rebbe fuses the two interpretations and explains, that because the people of Israel had accumulated so much spiritual wealth at Sinai they were now sufficiently spiritually endowed to to take the next step of inhabiting the land of Israel. Indeed, G-d was eager for them to put the “spiritual wealth” into action through practically living a G-dly life in the land of Israel. We are not just a nationality defined by a common geographic origins. To quote the 11th century sage, Rav Saadya Gaon, “Our peoplehood is defined by our Torah.”

Had they been worthy and not sinned with the spies, their conquest of the land would have been achieved “without a single shot fired.” The Holy Land was a natural fit for a Holy People. All obstacles would have seamlessly rolled out of the way. They had everything they needed to make it a perfect fit; a Torah, a Mishkan, and a Sanhedrin.

This should teach us a lesson about who we are and what defines our connection to the land. It is not about military strength (although sometimes that is necessary), it is about living up to the holiness conferred upon us at Sinai, thereby making us the perfect fit for the land that is “holy.” As we reflect on the destruction and exile associated with Tisha B’av this weekend, as well as the hope and belief of a rebuilt and free future, it behooves us to be cognizant of what defines our achievements and how we successfully attain them.

It is with great joy that we welcome Dr. David and Nechama Kaufmann back to New Orleans. We wish them much success in good health and happiness.

It is with great joy that we welcome Shloime and Tzivyah Greenwald and their family to our New Orleans Jewish community. May the move be a source of open and revealed blessing for them.

The men’s mikvah, also used for immersing utensils, is back up and running.

Wishing you a meaningful Tisha B’av weekend, may it be experienced through the rear-view mirror of Redemption!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

And the Winner is

And the winner is…

As you know our 2016 Raffle drawing was held earlier this week. We are very grateful for the degree of community participation and support. This year’s raffle exceeded the success of previous years.

In truth, the winner is each and every one that participated. Because in doing so you have furthered Chabad’s ability to continue providing the important services and resources to the New Orleans community and our region.

Your support makes it possible for:

A Young Jewish Professional to have an opportunity for Jewish connection in a warm family environment.

A Jewish prisoner to be visited by a Rabbi who provides spiritual guidance and moral support, not to mention a friendly face, during a very low-point in life.

An Israeli liver transplant patient and his family to feel like there is hope and caring during a difficult and scary situation.

A Jewish person seeking a meaningful adult educational experience to find a class, lecture or mentor to quench their intellectual and spiritual thirst.

A Jewish child at a school across the region to experience the richness of our holidays and traditions through the Living Legacy Workshop Series.

A local or visitor seeking a Minyan to find one… A person in need of Jewish life-cycle assistance to obtain that… A senior to have a valuable Jewish interaction… A New Orleanian to have an elevated Holiday experience such as Chanukah @ Riverwalk… A Jew to receive a calendar or holiday publication.

A Jew in New Orleans to forge a real relationship with a Shliach or Shlucha, who will be there for them through life’s ups and downs.

This is especially true during this period in the Jewish calendar, the three weeks of mourning and reflection over the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple). Isaiah prophesied that “Zion will be redeemed through justice and its captives through Tzedakah.”

The winners of the Chabad Raffle 2016 are:

Grand Prize winner: David and Naomi Mendick of Olney, MD.

Second Prize winner: Helen Stone of New Orleans, LA.

Third Prize winner: Andrea Merlin of New Orleans, LA.

Again a very heartfelt thank you to each one that participated. We are humbled by your support.

Our heartfelt condolences to Batia & Joe Slater and family, her mother, Dale Spizer Aronson, and the entire Aaronson/Spizer family upon the passing of Jean Spizer. May Hashem comfort the family among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and may the only know of happiness from here onward.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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