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Taking Ownership

Yesterday, during a prison chaplaincy visit to FCC Oakdale, I met with a gentleman whom I have known for over a year now. Prior to his incarceration there were many years of disconnect from Judaism. He has been working hard on rekindling his relationship with Hashem. He has been laying tefillin daily, praying from the Siddur multiple times a day, and increased his commitment to Kosher and Shabbat observance to the best of his ability under the circumstances. During our conversation we were talking about the recent holidays; he pointed on his Jewish calendar to Simchat Torah and asked me what that was about. I explained that it was the day we complete the reading of the Torah and when we begin anew. He expressed to me that he wants to start learning the Torah, but he is overwhelmed by the vastness of the (written) Torah and doesn’t know where to begin. It seems he had been just reading randomly and did not get a sense of the structure of it.

I taught him the idea of the weekly Torah portion and that one should study 1/7th of the Parsha each day. In this way there is a structured manner to studying the Parsha each week and the entire Torah each year. He was so excited with the prospect of tackling this new project that his glee was palpable. He thumped his Chumash and declared “I am going to own this thing.” And then he exclaimed with joy, “Next year, Simchat Torah is going to be my celebration.” We wrapped up our conversation, I gave him a hug, and left the prison to begin my 4 hour drive back to New Orleans.

It got me thinking about the idea of taking ownership of the Torah. We already have ownership of the Torah, as the verse in the last Parsha announces “The Torah that Moshe commanded us is an inheritance for the congregation of Yaakov.” But what about our Torah study? Have we taken ownership of that? How many of us are as excited as my friend in Oakdale about studying Torah? Do we look at a volume of the Torah, Talmud, Code of Jewish Law or Chassidus and say “I am going to own this thing?”

Psalm 1:2 states, “But his desire is in the Torah of the L-rd, and in His Torah he contemplates day and night. Why does it begin by referring to the Torah of Hashem and then the Torah is called His Torah? The simple understanding is that His refers to Hashem, but in a deeper sense, “his” could be referring to the person studying who has “taken ownership” and made the Torah his own. This is done by elevating our qualitative and quantitative devotion to the study of Torah. May we merit to be excited over our taking ownership of our Torah study all the days of our lives.

Due to an illness, the weekend with Rabbi Leibel Groner has been deferred to a later time TBA.  

The first session of our inaugural JLI course entitled Worrier to Warrior is being held this Tuesday evening, November 6 at 7 PM – Chabad Uptown. The class is free and open to the public and dinner will be served. You will have an option to register for the entire course if you wish to continue. More info at www.chabandneworleans.com/jli. We look forward to seeing you there. Please let us know that you are coming. The course is being offered on Tuesdays (beginning the 12th) at Chabad Metairie with the same options. For more info www.jewishlouisiana.com/jli.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Are you a physician or mental health professional?

Are you a physician or mental health professional? If so, please continue reading.

Are you not a physician or mental health professional? If so, please continue reading.

The JLI course entitled Worrier to Warrior launches early in November. The six week course is designed to address negative emotions such as feelings of inadequacy and worrying, while seeking to introduce joy and positivity back into ones life. The course has drawn much interest locally and nationally.

We are pleased to share with you that JLI is partnering with the CE office at Albert Einstein Medical College to provide continuing education credits for the upcoming course, Worrier to Warrior. Einstein is an accredited medical school, accredited by the APA, The American Psychological Association and the AMA’s Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education.

Doctors, Psychologists, and Social Workers in Louisiana will be able to earn up to 15 CE credits. Nine credits for attendance, and additional credits for studying the supplemental reading. Take advantage of this opportunity to further your Jewish education while gaining CE credits.

If you are not in the medical/mental health field, take advantage of the life transforming wisdom that this course has to offer.   

We are excited that Chabad Uptown is one of the new affiliates of JLI. We will be offering this fall’s 6 part course beginning Wednesday, November 6. I am enthusiastic about teaching my first JLI course. For information on registering for the Uptown course please go to www.chabadneworleans.com/jli.

Chabad Metairie has been a JLI affiliate for years. The course will be offered in Metairie beginning Tuesday, November 12 by veteran instructor, Rabbi Mendel Ceitlin. For info on registering for the Metairie course please go to www.jewishlouisiana.com/jli.

The first class at each location will be open to public at no charge, and refreshments will be served. Come taste and see that it is good.

The cost for attending the class is $70 per person with a 10% couples or bring a friend discount. The cost also includes the student textbook. Register now and your student textbook will be waiting for you in November.

On behalf of all the Shluchim at Chabad of Louisiana I want to thank all of those who were involved in our holiday programs this month. We are grateful to all of our supporters, volunteers, and participants. Hundreds passed through the doors of our institutions over the holidays. Thousands of meals were served. There were many hours of prayer, study, celebration and inspiration. There were many days of preparation for each of the holidays. All of this could not have been achieved without the dedication of our staff and volunteers, and the generosity of our supporters. So we say Yasher Koach – may we merit to do so again next year, and for years to come, in good health and with great joy. May Hashem bless each and every one for all they have done for His children.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Love Me Some Me

Earlier this week I got an email from someone, that mentioned how we are transitioning from the busy intensity of the high holidays into the relaxed mode of Sukkot and Simchat Torah. My first thought was, “Relaxed mode? Ha!” Sukkot is a wonderfully busy time of hosting as many Jews as possible in the Sukkah, and then tracking down as many Jews as possible with the Lulav and Etrog. As for Simchat Torah, from my standpoint, this is the most important and intense part of the holiday month. In fact, if I am asked to suggest the one day a year a person should attend Shul (at Chabad), I would recommend Simchat Torah. Why? Let me give you some context.

The mystics see the holiday season as phases in the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people. Elul is the courtship. Rosh Hashanah is the proposal, with the sounding of the Shofar being our “I do.” Yom Kippur is the Chupah, with Neilah being the Yichud (time that the bride and groom are secluded after the Chupah). Sukkot is the wedding reception and Sheva Brachot. During this time we celebrate with our well-wishers – the nations of the world. (Sukkot in the Beit Hamikdash was a time when offerings were brought on behalf of the 70 root nations of humanity.)

After the courtship, the wedding, the reception, and the celebration with others, the bride and groom then go home to celebrate with each other alone. They begin to explore the oneness and connection that they have with each other. They discover that they are two halves of the same soul. The love for each other is essentially the love of self (in an “unselfish manner”).

This, my friends, is what Simchat Torah is all about. It is our private time to celebrate with Hashem. It is the intensity of the joy that two halves of a single whole experience when they become one. It is the time to “Love me some me,” but in the polar opposite manner than the conventional application of that phrase. To quote the Zohar, “Israel and her King are one and alone.”

Please don’t let this amazing moment slip away without tapping into the special energy of Simchat Torah. Join us for Hakafot on Monday night and/or Tuesday morning. Come “love me some me” as you lose your ego in the arms of your other half, Hashem.  

Please check out our photos below of last night’s amazing Sukkah-Fest.

Shabbat Shalom
Chag Sameach
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Reset the Game Clock

There are situations in a football game when the officials overturn a call (except in New Orleans…). Usually following that, the head official calls for the game clock to be reset by a few seconds, thereby giving another opportunity to make a play. But the real fresh opportunity to make plays are when the game clock reads Q1 15:00, signaling the start of the game.

Right now our game clock reads Q1 15:00. On Yom Kippur the slate is wiped clean and we have the amazing opportunity to start over fresh and new. The beauty of it is, that the first encounter after Yom Kippur is Sukkot preparations, followed by the holiday of Sukkot, followed by Simchat Torah. We have opportunities to score big time in our Judaism over the next two weeks.

Yom Kippur reveals our connection with Hashem. Sukkot is our chance to act on that, applying our connection in a practical sense. There are so many Mitzvahs coming our way. We can eat in a Sukkah, shake the Lulav and Etrog, rejoice in the festival, celebrate our heritage, share a Sukkot experience with others, and, of course, the regular day to day Mitzvahs.

We must make the most of this wonderful time in the Jewish calendar and the fresh start that has been handed to us. Looking forward to celebrating Sukkot with you. Join us in our Sukkah for a meal. Come by and shake the Lulav and Etrog at Chabad. Attend the Sukkah-Fest celebration on the 17th. Celebrate your Judaism with limitless joy on Simchat Torah at Chabad.

Don’t let the moment slip away without cashing in on the gift that Hashem has given each and every one of us. The game clock is reset. This is your time to shine!!

Wishing you a very joyous Sukkot and Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Start Worrying. Details to Follow

“Start worrying. Details to follow.” Text of a Jewish telegram.

Are you a worrier? My mother told me that when she was younger and there was a “crisis” in her childhood home, her brother would assign tasks to all the members of the family to address the issue. “Bluma,” he would say to her, “Your job is to worry.”

It seems that worrying is a Jewish (and universal, for that matter) trait. This trait is the subject of many Jewish jokes. However, in real life it is no joking matter. Worrying can be debilitating. It can sap all of our energy, preventing us from moving forward and achieving our goals. If can be a major obstacle in our meaningful service of Hashem. Myriads of self-help books have been written on the topic, with varying degrees of success.

What does Judaism have to say about worrying? Does Chassidus have any solutions for this disquieting characteristic? The Alter Rebbe in Tanya devotes a series of chapters addressing the idea of negative feelings such as worry and melancholy. Next month a new JLI (Jewish Learning Institute) course will be launched entitled “Worrier to Warrior.” It is based primarily on those teachings.

We are proud to announce that Chabad Uptown is a new affiliate of JLI. We will be offering this fall’s 6 part course beginning Wednesday, November 6. For information on registering for the Uptown course please go to www.chabadneworleans.com/jli. Chabad Metairie has been a JLI affiliate for years. The course will be offered in Metairie beginning Tuesday, November 12. For info on registering for the Metairie course please go to www.jewishlouisiana.com/jli.

The first class at each location will be open to public at no charge and refreshments will be served. Come taste and see that it is good.

We are pleased to share with you that JLI is partnering with the CE office at Albert Einstein Medical College to provide continuing education credits for the upcoming course, Worrier to Warrior. Einstein is an accredited medical school, accredited by the APA, The American Psychological Association and the AMA’s Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education.

Doctors, Psychologists, Social Workers in Louisiana will be able to earn up to 15 CE credits. Nine credits for attendance, and additional credits for studying the supplemental reading. Take advantage of this opportunity to further your Jewish education while gaining CE credits.

If you are not in the medical/mental health field, take advantage of the life transforming wisdom that this course has to offer. We look forward to seeing you there in November.

May you be sealed for a good and sweet year in all areas of life.
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

 

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