ChabadNewOrleans Blog

25th Anniversary Reflections

Yesterday Malkie and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. 25 years is considered a generation. We are very blessed to have merited to raise one generation and witness the start of a new generation of our family during this time.

There are two things that I reflected on in connection with our anniversary, that I would like to share. A wedding marks the beginning of the formation of a new unit, a husband and wife. They build a life together; and they share hopes and dreams of where they want their life to go. On an anniversary, one often contemplates how those shared hopes and dreams are coming along.

As we celebrated our anniversary, surrounded by our family, my thoughts kept returning to a quote from the book Hayom Yom – Nissan 9. “Jewish wealth is not houses and gold. The everlasting Jewish wealth is: Being Jews who keep Torah and Mitzvot, and bringing into the world children and grandchildren who keep Torah and Mitzvot.”

We have much to thankful for to Hashem for this immense wealth with which He has blessed us.

Obviously, a wedding anniversary is a very personal milestone. Yet, as Hillel teaches in Pirkei Avot, “If I am (only) for myself, what am I?” When a couple gets married and starts a life together, they must think about what value their life will contribute to Hashem’s world. In 25 years, how have I advanced the realization of Hashem’s purpose for creation? In 25 years, how has my home and family benefitted others? Can I honestly say that my marriage and family has made a difference, leaving an indelible mark on the world around us? These are the things we must reflect on. Hopefully the answers are positive ones. Furthermore, we look forward to being granted many more healthy and happy years together, during which we can continue and increase in those areas.

May Hashem bless each and every one of you to be inscribed and sealed for a healthy, prosperous, and meaningful year of 5782.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Friday the 13th - The Luckiest Day

This morning, on Friday the 13th, I was considering breaking a mirror, under a ladder, in the presence of a black cat. But then I decided that it was too much trouble and I had better things to do with my time.

I remember how incredulous I was when I discovered as a teenager, that most buildings in Manhattan do not have a 13th floor. I could not understand why a rational society would lend any credence to such foolishness. 

The horror genre built an entire industry around these superstitions. Their favorite day is Friday the 13th, because it brought them a billion-dollar windfall from the movie series and the business that it spawned.

So why don’t we Jews believe in this stuff? In this week’s Parsha we learn the following: “When you have come to the land the L-rd, your G-d, is giving you, you shall not learn to do like the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who passes his son or daughter through fire, a soothsayer, a diviner of [auspicious] times, one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, a pithom sorcerer, a yido'a sorcerer, or a necromancer... Be wholehearted with the L-rd, your G-d. For these nations, which you are to possess, hearken to diviners of [auspicious] times and soothsayers, but as for you, the L-rd, your G-d, has not given you [things] like these.”

Be simple with the L-rd, your G-d – Tamim ti’hiye – is not so simple. The commentators discuss whether Judaism rejects sorcery because it is false, or rather, because it is immoral. Either way we cut it, a Jew need not be concerned with those superstitions or divinations, because we are laser focused on Hashem. Since we believe Hashem runs the world and is intimately involved in every detail of what occurs, it matters little whether some diviner claims that something is lucky or unlucky. Hashem is in charge and if we do what we need to those matters will not have any connection to us whatsoever.

So today is the luckiest day in the world. Today is the day we can plug in to our relationship with Hashem through Torah and Mitzvot. In return Hashem blesses us all to be inscribed and sealed for a healthy, prosperous, and meaningful year of 5782.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Meet the Chaplain

This week I had the opportunity to sit down for a conversation with one of our community’s lesser known assets, LCMC Heath System Chaplain, Rabbi Levi Partouche, who just completed his first year in New Orleans. I share some highlights of our dialogue.

MR: Please tell us about yourself.
LP: I was born in Montpellier, France, where my parents are the Rebbe’s Shluchim for many years. My schooling took me to Paris, New Jersey, Florida, Israel and Brooklyn. After marrying my wife Sarah (nee Ross), we joined the team of Shluchim in Montpellier for 3 years before moving to Jacksonville, FL, so I could enroll in a CPE (Clinical Pastoral Counselling) course and residency. There our son Mendel was born. Upon completing the residency in summer of 2020, I began to apply for jobs in the field. LCMC had an opening and offered me a position. Other offers came as well, but New Orleans, with its Jewish communal infrastructure, seemed to be the best fit.

MR: What are your duties with LCMC?
LP: As a member of the chaplaincy team, I rotate between the LCMC facilities (UMC, Children’s, Touro, West Jeff and others). The primary role is providing pastoral care and counseling to all patients, regardless of religious affiliation, and their families. I help Jewish patients navigate through the confusion of “end of life” issues. I have served as the Rabbi present to recite final prayers before death. I have helped facilitate a greater availability of Kosher food upon request. I am on call at least two nights a week. One particularly memorable event was dealing with a family crisis when a young man was brought in after being shot accidentally by his father. During the initial COVID surges, the hospital staff, including chaplains, often served as the connection between isolated patients and their families, helping them with phone calls etc. I was privileged to engage with several Jewish COVID patients in a very powerful way. 

MR: Sounds like a very busy schedule. Yet, I believe you have also expanded your reach beyond your official duties.
LP: I am a member of Chabad on Call (an association of Chabad Medical Chaplains). My wife and I try to serve in a ministering role to healthcare professionals and their families. We give out challah. We have them over for Shabbat. We host monthly picnics in the park. We have Jewish holiday events. I have also gone to other facilities in a volunteer capacity. On a visit to the VA Medical Center, I discovered that there was no Kosher food available. I successfully worked with dietary to change that. During the recent construction of the New Orleans Eruv, I lobbied Children’s Hospital to allow the use of some of their structures for the Eruv. The change to incorporate Children’s Hospital within the Eruv is in the works. This will allow parents visiting their children at the hospital on Shabbat to bring water or a baby carriage on the walk.

MR: How is your family adjusting to life in New Orleans?
LP: My wife Sarah has roots in New Orleans. Her father is a Tulane and Chabad House alum. She teaches at Slater Torah Academy, where our son is enrolled for the coming school year. We live in the wonderful Chabad Uptown community. We have developed many nice friendships and look forward to continuing life in this greater New Orleans Jewish community.

MR: Thank you very much for your time and best of luck with all of your endeavors.

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