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A Menorah at the Children's Museum

As many are aware, the Louisiana Children’s Museum recently moved from the Warehouse District on Julia St. to a beautiful new venue in City Park. A few days before Chanukah a prominent member of the Jewish community respectfully expressed disappointment with the museum’s lack of inclusion of Chanukah in the seasonal display.

The director of the museum called Arnie Fielkow, CEO of the Jewish Federation, to ask for some guidance and help in incorporating a Chanukah element into the display. Arnie asked me if I would be willing to help. Of course I agreed and called the director right away. We ended up speaking only a few days later, on Monday the first day of Chanukah.

I expressed to her how appreciative we are of the museum’s desire to be inclusive of the Jewish community in the display. We talked about a few ideas and then I suggested that she consider displaying a Menorah that was built by the students of the Chabad Hebrew School. It had been on display at Chanukah @ Riverwalk and now it was available to be used at the museum. She loved the idea and how it fit with the rest of the theme. By that afternoon, Rabbi Zalman and Libby Groner dropped off the Chabad Hebrew School Menorah at the Louisiana Children’s Museum where it will be on display for the rest of Chanukah.    

There are a number of beautiful takeaways from this story. First how Chanukah has become a part of our society’s fabric. I believe the Chabad push for public Menorah lightings and Chanukah celebrations has a lot to do with that. Another takeaway is that sometimes a gentle push is needed to get something accomplished. Finally, the beauty of collaboration. When the different organizations that make up our community have a good working relationship, much good can be achieved.

Please see below for the first photos of Chanukah @ Riverwalk. We hope to have the professional photos and a full Chanukah recap next week.

Please also check out the links to the TV interviews in advance of this year’s Chanukah @ Riverwalk Celebration.

WWL-4 - https://www.wwltv.com/video/news/local/morning-show/celebrating-chanukah-at-the-riverwalk/289-adb6be78-99c1-43ca-8759-ae2090d0a6fb

WVUE-Fox8 - https://www.fox8live.com/video/20 19/12/20/menorah-lighting-rabbi-mendel-rivkin-samantha-brady/

WDSU-6 - https://www.wdsu.com/article/city-prepares-for-the-annual-menorah-lighting/30298860.

Wishing you a happy rest of Chanukah and Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

 

The Value of the Slightest Detail

This week one of our children had to undergo surgery to correct a “minor” issue, that could have potentially caused a “major” issue down the line. Thank G-d, the child is doing well. The medical team was wonderful, caring and professional; and with Hashem’s help our child is on the way to a full recovery.

It got me thinking about the intricate workings of the human body, and how the slightest shift in a seemingly insignificant part of our complex anatomy, can cause an issue that could far outweigh the perception of its importance. We are filled with blood vessels, ducts, muscles, sinews and a host of other bodily components. Each one of them serves a function. We don’t always appreciate the gravity of that function until it is threatened by malfunction. But they are all part of a larger system. We appreciate the importance of the major organs such as the heart, brain, liver or kidney. But there are “little things” that can threaten a “less significant” element of our anatomy; and the next thing you know the body is suffering from a major deficiency that stemmed from that “small issue.” The slightest bulge, blockage or twist in a vessel or duct can upset the entire system that makes the body hum like a well-oiled machine. Thankfully, the intelligence with which Hashem blessed human beings, has brought about major advancements in the area of detection and correction of health issues.

The Zohar states, that all of the cosmos (physical and spiritual) hangs on a single detail of a how a Mitzvah is fulfilled. Tanya explains, that each Mitzvah represents a Divine Energy that comes to the world to sustain it. What if a person doesn’t fulfill the Mitzvah exactly the way it is supposed to be done? The energy doesn’t get suffused into the world.

One might argue that it is not such a big deal. It is the intent that matters. What if I don’t do the Mitzvah exactly as the Torah tells me to? Big deal! My heart is in the right place. If the Mezuzah scroll is paper and not parchment. If the Tefillin are worn at night instead of during the day. If I light Shabbat candles 30 minutes after sunset instead of 18 minutes before sunset. If I celebrate Purim a day early or late. If I got rid of bread on Passover but not liquor. I could go on and on.

Would the same be said about a medical issue? What if the vessel had a miniscule blockage? What if the duct opened slightly? What if the muscle shifted to one side or another by an almost immeasurable amount? Would we say the same thing? Of course not! Because we see the actual impact of even the slightest vulnerability in the body’s condition. The same is true on the spiritual side of life. Care must be taken to follow the details and do the Mitzvahs correctly. In this way we ensure the health of our own selves as well as the cosmos as a whole.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

We Need Less Tolerance

This world needs a little less tolerance. No, that is not a typo and I have not gone over to the “other side.” Let me explain. Tolerance has become a buzz word and a major focal point in the shift toward progress in the area of combatting racial and other forms of discrimination.

But let’s think about the usage of the term. Here is how the dictionary defines tolerance: The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with. The second definition is: the capacity to endure continued subjection to something. So it seems that tolerance is a (somewhat) painful or challenging state of existence. We tolerate pain, we tolerate adverse conditions, and we tolerate people that are “other” to us.

Essentially tolerance is saying to the other that “really, I can’t stand you, but I have trained myself to not allow my distaste for you to cause me to run away and stay far from you.”

What we need is less tolerance and more love. We need to stop seeing people as “other” and start embracing them as “same.” This doesn’t mean that we embrace or even tolerate all that they think or do. It means that we look deeper into the essence of who they are beyond what they do or think. That they are Hashem’s children, Hashem’s handiwork, formed in Hashem’s image, and each one has a spark of Hashem within them.

What we need is less tolerance and more love.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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