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ChabadNewOrleans Blog

LOVE IS CONTAGIOUS! Become a super-spreader

The Rebbe was once asked why his Chassidim have such an unusual degree of love and admiration for him. He replied with a smile, it is merely a reflection of the love I have for them, as scripture states, “like water reflects the face so is the heart of man to man.”

In a similar vein, in 1954, as a young “newly minted” Rebbe, he went to visit a prominent Jewish leader many years his senior for a Shiva call. The cream of religious Jewish leadership was present and the young Rebbe made a very favorable impression on them. On the way out the Rebbe was approached by one of the Rabbis who said to him, “Lubavitcher Rebbe, I am afraid I am becoming one of your chassidim.” The Rebbe looked at him with a disarming smile and said, “Why must it be with fear? Let it be out of love.”

Chabad is all about love. Love for Hashem. Love for each other. Love for the Torah. In fact the Russian town that was home to the Chabad movement for over 100 years, is called Lubavitch, which means city of love. The Rebbe’s mission statement when he assumed the leadership of Chabad in 1951, was about the need to integrate the love of Hashem, the Jewish people and the Torah.

In the passage Yedid Nefesh that we say each Friday afternoon as Shabbat begins, there is an expression, “Nafshi Cholaat Ahavetecha – my soul is lovesick for You (Hashem).” Why the usage of the term sick? Couldn’t we find other terms to convey the depth and power of the love? The other day I heard someone explain this in a humorous manner. Love is contagious. Love is infectious. In these past three months, we have all become experts in how infections are spread. We are all hyper-aware of contagions. Now there is talk of the super-spreaders of the virus. Let us take a page from that playbook.

LOVE IS CONTAGIOUS! Become a super-spreader of love. That is what being a Lubavitcher is all about. As the love case count goes up, the healthier our society becomes.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

The Guiding Voice Yet Resounds

In early spring of 1992, an Israeli cabinet minister called one of the Rebbe’s close aides. The Rebbe has suffered a debilitating stroke weeks earlier, affecting his speech and causing partial paralysis. The Israeli official was calling to check on the Rebbe’s health. He was particularly keen on knowing about the Rebbe’s capacity to speak. What was driving the interest in the Rebbe’s speaking capacity? It turns out that the Israeli government was contemplating some moves in the area of negotiations with the PLO, to which the Rebbe was strongly opposed. They felt that if the Rebbe’s voice was silenced, they would be freer to move forward with their plans unhindered by the Rebbe’s opposition.  

This same notion was advanced by many around the world two years later after the Rebbe’s physical passing on the 3 of Tammuz, 1994. The felt that with the Rebbe’s voice silenced, Chabad would be incapable of continuing to operate and the Rebbe’s message would be muted.

They were gravely mistaken. 26 years later, the Rebbe’s voice of guidance, inspiration, moral authority and spiritual leadership resounds louder than ever. Through audio and video presentation of the Rebbe’s talks, along with hundreds of volumes of published teachings, the Rebbe’s voice of clarity and compassion touches the lives of millions. Via the agency of thousands of Shluchim families, along with his many chassidim and adherents, the Rebbe’s empowering and uplifting message is conveyed to every corner of our world.

The Rebbe’s message to our world is that we are on the threshold of a new era, the era of Redemption. It behooves each and every one of us to do what we can to prepare ourselves and those around us to usher in that era through the coming of Moshiach.

Rabbi Mendel Rivkin 

#GiveChabadNOLA - A Tribute to Joe & Bertha Nelkin

Three months ago, on March 23, Chabad of Louisiana was scheduled to launch an ambitious fundraising campaign, called “2020 Vision,” with the goal of raising $140,000 in 36 hours. This was going to be accomplished through the generosity of a group of supporters who committed to match each dollar raised with one of their own.

A day before that, on March 22, Governor Edwards issued the stay at home mandate in light of the COVID-919 pandemic. Of course, we suspended our campaign at that time. We are now turning to our supporters and friends as we prepare to relaunch the campaign next week. Taking the economic realities of our time into account, we have scaled back the campaign, with a goal of raising $100,000 in 36 hours. The campaign begins on Tuesday, June 16 at 9:00 am and ends on Wednesday, June 17 at 9:00 pm CDT. We are using the hashtag #GiveChabadNOLA.

Chabad has been operating in the community for 45 years. Thousands of lives have been positively impacted. Enable us to keep that powerful force for good going strong.

What can you do?

·         Contribute by going to www.chabadneworleans.com/giving. There is a pre-donate option. All contributions will be listed once the campaign goes live on Tuesday morning.

·         Encourage your friends and family to contribute by sending them to website www.chabadneworleans.com/giving. Call, text, or promote on social media. Use the hashtag #GiveChabadNOLA.

·         Volunteer to make calls. There will be a call center at Chabad, with social distancing. Or call from the comfort of your home. Reach out to Malkie if you would like to volunteer – malkie@chabadneworleans.com.

We need you to help our community achieve this important goal. Thank you in advance for your devotion and support.

We look forward to celebrating a successful campaign with y’all!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

 A Tribute to Joseph & Bertha Nelkin

Yesterday, I had the somber privilege of participating via Zoom in the funeral of Mr. Joe Nelkin, who passed away at a ripe old age in Baltimore. Joe and Bertha Nelkin left New Orleans nearly 40 years, yet the impact they had on the community, and on so many individuals is still strongly felt. They were deeply involved and committed to a wide array of communal initiatives, including the Chevra Kadisha, a Jewish day school, Bikur Cholim, a Mikvah, and several congregations.   

Personally, some of the earliest memories of my life were in their house on Mouton Street in Lakeview. My parents took an apartment across the street from them. We were very blessed to have an adopted Bubby and Zeidy so close by. As the years went on, we moved to a different neighborhood, and eventually they moved to Baltimore, the feeling of mishpacha never wore off. When we saw them in New Orleans for a visit, perhaps for a simcha or a visit to the gravesites of their parents, I always delighted in hearing their stories and adventures, and hearing Mrs. Nelkin share memories of the early years. We felt that they had real nachas from the activities of the Chabad in New Orleans, much of which began in the merit of their involvement.

On Purim of 1976, Chabad House on Freret St. opened its doors. A month later, on the occasion of the Rebbe’s 74th birthday, my father, Rabbi Zelig Rivkin, traveled with Mr. Nelkin to participate in a large gathering (Farbrengen) in New York. During that Farbrengen, Mr. Nelkin and my father presented a ceremonial key of the new Chabad House to the Rebbe. He asked the Rebbe for a blessing regarding a personal family matter, which the Rebbe gave him. He and his wife reaped the benefits of that blessing, enjoying a beautiful family surrounded by their many grandchildren.

Several years ago, my parents and I had the pleasure of visiting with Joe and Bertha at their home in Baltimore. We slipped right back into the closeness and warmth of our friendship with them. Sadly, that would be the last time we’d see them in person. Since then our world has lost two of the most caring and devoted people that you will ever meet. May the memory of Joe and Bertha Nelkin for a blessing for their family, friends and all who were touched by their kindness.

Sensitivity to Human Life

Our country is still reeling from the tragic sniffing out of George Floyd’s life. There is no question that this was an example of police brutality. There is no question that African Americans are disproportionately the targets of police brutality. There are certainly major issues of systemic racism that need to be addressed in our society, on many levels. I do not believe that all members of the police force are racist; nor that they all “practice” brutality. I am not privy to enough information to be able to intelligently comment on the specifics of this case. However, as a Rabbi, my role is see how Judaism/Torah might be able to inform us as we seek solutions to these issues. I would like to share a Torah nugget that addresses one facet of this conversation.

Ethics of our Fathers cautions us to value the role of authority, “Pray for the integrity of the government; for were it not for the fear of its authority, a man would swallow his neighbor alive.” Members of law enforcement put themselves at risk for the protection of society. In doing so, they are regularly exposed to situations, where the need to defend one life, necessitates putting the welfare of another at risk. A possible result of this can be, a slowly developed cheapening of life, especially the life of one who is perceived as a criminal or a potential threat. This insensitivity can subconsciously seep into the psyche of a police officer. What solution does Torah offer for this problem? I will borrow from the Torah’s instructions to soldiers, who are faced with a similar dilemma.

Most of the Torah’s instructions regarding war can be found in the middle of Deuteronomy. In the middle of the passages that deal with war, the Torah interrupts to address the discovery of an unidentified corpse outside a city. The city elders and the priests need to come and perform a ceremony and declare “our hands did not spill this blood.” This passage conveys Hashem’s great pain over needless loss of life. Context is very important in the Torah. As such, the placement of this passage in the middle of the section on war is curious. To explain: The Jewish soldiers that went to war needed to somewhat suppress their sensitivity in order to fight and defend their people against enemies who wished to destroy them. Being involved in war and killing, soldiers can encounter a difficulty in maintaining their sensitivity to human life. Therefore the Torah inserts the passage about the tragedy of death, seemingly out of context, because it is just the lesson needed to cultivate the mindfulness regarding the value of a human life.

Members of law enforcement, must inculcate this lesson into their training and mindset. Precisely because they are faced with the potential need to defend life with the use of force, their sensitivity to the value of human life (all human life) must be maintained at a heightened state.

May Hashem bless our society with the healing that we need so that we can come to live together as one nation under G-d, with real liberty and true justice for all.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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