ChabadNewOrleans Blog

Who is the most successful Jew?

If a poll was taken on who is the most Jewishly accomplished person in history, undoubtedly Moshe would get the most votes. After all he received the Torah at Sinai, performed wondrous miracles, created the template for Jewish leadership, was identified by G-d as the greatest prophet ever, and, by the way, he was exceedingly humble.

Which is why I am fascinated by a passage in the Midrash where G-d tells Moshe, and I loosely paraphrase, “Don’t even think of standing in Avraham’s place.” This implies that in a certain respect, Hashem valued Avraham’s achievements more than those of Moshe. We find this idea echoed in another Midrash, where Moshe is described as beloved and special because he was the seventh (generation from Avraham). The inference there is that his specialness stems from this that he builds upon the groundwork laid by those that came before him, most notably the first, Avraham.

What was so unique about Avraham and his method of serving Hashem? In his very first discourse, the Rebbe cites these aforementioned passages in the Midrash and explains them in the following manner. Avraham’s life was defined by devotion to Hashem. He was all about the cause. This was the case even at the risk of his own detriment and legacy (as is evident in the Akeidah narrative). He was not interested in personal development and achievement. Those were things that happened along the way. It was all about “what does Hashem want me to do now.” If self-sacrifice is necessary, so be it. If self-preservation is necessary, so be it. He moved when he was told to move and stayed when he was told to stay. It was simply not about him. It was about Hashem. While others may have risen to greater heights in personal achievement, Avraham set the bar for personal devotion.

The beauty of it is, that as our father, he bequeathed this capacity to each of us. To some degree, each of us is capable of experiencing that sort of devotion to Hashem at times in our life. Our goal is to make those times defining moments, allowing them to establish and guide the direction of our lives.

The other night Chabad of Louisiana partnered with Hadassah to gather 200 women of our community for a Mega Challah Bake. It was a truly inspiring evening filled with unity and Jewish feminine empowerment. We are happy to share the first round photos of this phenomenal event with more made available next week.

Heartfelt condolences to Linda Waknin and the entire Assoulin family on the untimely passing of her brother, Marco Assoulin.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Avoiding a Spiritual Scam

Recently someone I know had to reinstall a Microsoft product on their computer. After doing a search for the product website she clicked on a link that turned out to be a scam masquerading as Microsoft. The site prompted for her email and phone, which she provided (big mistake – but an easy one to make). When nothing happened she realized it was the wrong site and she went back and found the correct one. Hours later, she was working on the installation when she got a call from an individual claiming to be a Microsoft tech support rep. He asserted that there was something wrong with the computer and that he could fix it. When she questioned why he was calling her he got aggressive and tried to scare her into allowing him to do the “fix.” She said that she needed to think about it and she would call him back. He gave her a number. When she googled the number, it came up as a known scam company. The red flag of his aggressiveness allowed her to realize that there was something fishy about the offer.

The Baal Shemtov taught that we must derive a lesson in serving Hashem from everything that we encounter. There are times when we are faced with a choice in acting on a particular inclination but we are not sure from where it stems. How do we know which is the real thing and which is the scam?

The story is told of Reb Nochum of Chernobyl who lived in great poverty. Once, a chasid brought him a gift of 300 rubles. After all the visitors left, the aide entered the Rebbe's room to request some money to cover household debts. Rabbi Nochum opened the drawer and the gabbai was surprised to see only a few silver and copper coins. The gabbai, unable to contain himself, asked about the 300 rubles.

“After the wealthy chasid left, another man cried to me that he needed 300 rubles for his daughter's wedding. However, as soon as I decided to give the 300 rubles to this man, a different thought came to my mind, 'Why give so much money to one person, when it can be divided among many families, including my own?' After thinking it through, I concluded that the second idea, to divide the money, was not coming from my Yetzer tov, for then it would have entered my mind immediately. It was only when I decided to do the mitzvah that this thought came along. Therefore," Reb Nochum concluded, "I determined that its purpose was to trick me into inaction. So I fulfilled the advice of my good inclination and gave the entire 300 rubles to the needy chasid."

Sometimes the Yetzer Hara disguises itself in righteous garb. But you can discern it by the aggressiveness with which it spurs you to inaction by distracting you with pious arguments.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all those who were instrumental in making the holiday month at Chabad so special and successful. You are too numerous to name individually, but you know who you are and we appreciate everything you have done for our community.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and a good second month of 5778.
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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